“He was a much better player than I was, and he has a much higher winning percentage,” La Russa joked of McGraw. “I beat him with longevity and great situations.”
La Russa, 76, came out of a 10-year retirement to take over the ultra-loaded White Sox after beginning his career with the same job in Chicago in 1979. He went on to manage the Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals before retiring the first time following the 2011 season. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.
“It’s not about the staff,” La Russa said. “It’s about the players.”
Having said that, La Russa was quick to praise all his coaches over his career, as well as his current boss. White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf allowed La Russa to be fired once, calling it the biggest regret of his time as owner. He was the driving force behind bringing La Russa back for a second stint with the White Sox.
“Early on, he read my bubble gum card and saw what a crappy player I was, so he’s the one that started putting outstanding coaches with this manager, who had no clue,” La Russa said.
It resonated with La Russa that this latest accomplishment came on the 77th anniversary of D-Day; the team put the movie “The Longest Day” on in the clubhouse before Sunday’s game. He expressed an appreciation for those in uniform, then pointed to his own jersey as the White Sox have a special place in his heart as well.
“Lot of pieces to this day including this uniform and coming back here to have it happen,” La Russa said. “It’s just overwhelming. Glad it’s a day off tomorrow.”
La Russa won’t catch Mack. He trails him by 967 wins.
“It’s beyond sacred,” he said of the top mark. “Unattainable. I didn’t think this was attainable. I didn’t think this was ever going to happen.
“The year I retired (in 2011), my family was very upset. They wanted this to happen.”
It took nearly a decade, but La Russa finally moved ahead of McGraw. His players weren’t aware what was at stake on Sunday, but were more than happy to be a part of baseball history.
“You have to respect him,” winning pitcher Dylan Cease (4-2) said. “It’s pretty legendary to say we get to play for him. He’s calm. He’s funny. It’s nice having him at the helm.”
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