HOUSTON — The hatchet was buried for good — or so we thought — in the summertime of 2014 on the memorial service for former huge league pitcher Bob Welch, who performed for Tony La Russa with the A’s and was a long-time teammate of Dusty Baker with the Dodgers.
With the assistance of Dave Stewart — the previous A’s pitcher who additionally performed for La Russa’s 1989 World Series-winning membership after starting his profession as a teammate of Baker with the Dodgers — two proud baseball males exchanged pleasantries and went on about their enterprise and careers.
No one may have imagined seven years later that the previous National League Central rival managers would meet once more within the American League Division Series. The oldest managers in baseball — La Russa is 77 and Baker is 72 — each got here out of retirement and can conflict when the White Sox meet the Astros starting Thursday at Minute Maid Park.
“Hey, I figured that was going to occur when the yr began,” Baker stated. “They acquired a superb membership, we’ve acquired a superb membership. I simply figured some issues had been already written earlier than you even get there. All you needed to do was observe the script and get there.”
The sophisticated script of the La Russa-Baker rivalry is one even Hollywood could be too shy to write down. La Russa and Baker have managed in opposition to one another 208 instances; every has gained 104 video games. The historical past between them goes again 50 years, after they had been briefly Braves teammates in 1971. In Baker’s last profession yr with the A’s in 1986, La Russa was his supervisor for the ultimate 79 video games.
But the rivalry was its fiercest after they each managed within the NL Central — La Russa with the Cardinals from 1996-2011; Baker with the Cubs from 2003-06 and Reds from 2008-13.
“He’s within the Hall of Fame,” Baker stated. “You do not discover many Hall of Famers that come again. Most of them are attempting to get in, [much] much less coming again. I get pleasure from managing in opposition to Tony.”
Perhaps probably the most high-profile on-field run-in between the 2 got here in 2003, the yr Baker took over the Cubs after main the Giants to the World Series. In a September recreation at Wrigley Field, they cursed at one another from throughout the sphere after warnings had been issued to each dugouts following successful by pitch.
The yr earlier than, the Giants beat La Russa’s Cardinals within the NL Championship Series, a sequence by which Kenny Lofton dodged a high-and-tight pitch within the fifth inning of Game 1, inflicting the benches to empty. Lofton had homered earlier within the recreation and took his time across the bases.
“You’re speculated to care for your membership, and he’s speculated to care for his,” La Russa stated in a 2020 interview with Cardinals Magazine. “There had been a couple of situations in Chicago — and later when he was with Cincinnati — the place it turned private. As his buddy, that’s regrettable to me.”
Said Baker: “It went from nice to unhealthy, again to good. You can’t harbor issues of the previous. You’ve acquired to maneuver ahead.”
The boiling blood of youthful males was nowhere in sight when Baker and La Russa exchanged lineup playing cards earlier this season. Baker’s Astros went 5-2 in opposition to the White Sox.
“Time heals all wounds,” Baker stated. “Most of the downs had been the truth that I used to be in the identical division as Tony for 10 years. We had been enjoying them 15, 18 instances, or nevertheless many instances you play them a yr. That’s plenty of video games for unhealthy feelings to kick up.”
La Russa stated Wednesday how a lot he respects Baker’s profession as a supervisor and a participant. He stated the unhealthy blood was the product of being in the identical division and being aggressive. His opinion on Baker has softened over time.
“He had an excellent profession as a participant, championship expertise, carried out the identical as a supervisor,” La Russa stated. “He does all of the issues that you simply search for [in a manager]. He will get guys to play. They respect him. They like him. You know what? He is aware of and I do know, it is between our two groups. It needs to be an gratifying competitors so far as [the] high quality of the competitors.”
Baker, who’s chasing a World Series championship that La Russa has gained thrice as a supervisor, stated it doesn’t matter who’s within the opposing dugout.
“It’s not about our relationship,” he stated. “It’s not about something apart from White Sox vs. the Astros.”