ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa was extremely nervous as he walked to the podium Friday morning, and he didn’t try to hide it.
He actually worked it in to his address before nearly 3,000 graduates at Washington University.
“I’m gonna tell you that I’m anxious about these remarks to the point of being fearful,” LaRussa admitted, telling graduates that he did it anyway and that’s what they should do in life — face their fears and not back down.
Backing down will start a lifetime of worry and self-doubt, he cautioned.
LaRussa was on hand not only to speak to the graduates but to receive an honorary doctor of humanities degree.
Of course, being a five-time MLB “Manager of the Year” LaRussa had plenty of baseball anecdotes to pass along.
For example he recalled getting his very first job as a manager for a farm club after his self-professed “less than mediocre” playing career.
The farm club director introduced LaRussa to the stadium crowd by reminding them that usually the worst players end up making good managers, so LaRussa had a chance to be one of the best.
That night, after LaRussa over-managed a one-run 9th-inning lead and lost his very first game, the same farm director told him “You may have been a better player than I thought you were”.
In the end his main message to the newly-minted graduates was: Make your own decisions, stick to your guns, and never give up.
“Vince Lombardi once said to his team, ‘We will relentlessly pursue perfection’,” LaRussa said, briefly switching over to football. “And then he said ‘We will never achieve it, but what we will achieve is excellence’. I think that is a wonderful message for you.”
Before leaving the podium, LaRussa found time for one more Cards-related story.
He recalled the time he and pitching coach Dave Duncan argued over which one had to trudge out to the mound and remove Chris Carpenter, after the Cardinals pitching ace had given up another long hit into the gap.
LaRussa lost and when he got to the mound Carpenter gruffly asked him “What are you doing here?”.
LaRussa explained that he thought Carpenter was laboring and he was there to take him out of the game.
“But I’m not tired!,” Carpenter protested.
“I know that, Chris,” LaRussa replied, “but our outfielders are.”