La Russa resolves DUI case, feels ‘deep remorse and regret’


FILE – In this April 19, 2019, file photo, Tony La Russa, left, talks before a baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara, File)

CHICAGO (AP) — White Sox manager Tony La Russa says he doesn’t have a drinking problem. He also says he has to prove that with his behavior.

The 76-year-old La Russa pleaded guilty Monday to a lesser charge to resolve misdemeanor drunken driving charges stemming from his arrest nearly 10 months ago on a freeway in metro Phoenix.

La Russa also pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in Florida in 2007 after police found him asleep inside his running SUV at a stop light and smelling of alcohol. After the 2007 case was resolved, La Russa accepted responsibility and said it would never happen again.

La Russa’s Arizona arrest occurred Feb. 24, but the charges were filed Oct. 28 — one day before he was hired to manage the Chicago White Sox. He pleaded guilty to reckless driving in Maricopa County Justice Court and was sentenced to one day of home detention, a fine of nearly $1,400 and 20 hours of community service.

“I know I don’t have a drinking problem, just like I know I made a serious mistake in February,” La Russa said on a conference call with reporters, “and where I am right now is to prove that I don’t have a drinking problem and to prove it every day off the field that I’m going to handle it and what’s painfully clear to me is if I have a drink I will not drive. There’s always an alternative.”

Authorities say La Russa, who won a World Series with Oakland and two more with St. Louis, blew out a tire on the grey Lexus he was driving. The Hall of Fame manager smashed into a curb, leaving the vehicle smoking. Tests taken the night of his arrest showed his blood alcohol concentration was .095 — above the legal limit of .08.

La Russa said he feels “deep remorse and regret” about what happened. He underwent 20 hours of alcohol counseling after his arrest, which he described as “very helpful.”

“It’s impossible to explain how daily and deeply this gets at you and has bothered me for a long time,” he said. “Obviously I displayed bad judgment that night in February.”

La Russa, the oldest manager in the majors, was hired by Chicago in a surprise move after Rick Renteria was let go in what the team said was a mutual decision. He is friends with White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and started his managing career with the team during the 1979 season.

He is returning to the dugout for the first time since 2011, when he led St. Louis past Texas in the World Series.

La Russa said he let the White Sox know about his arrest when they expressed interest in him for the manager job.

“Before the conversations got serious at all, I made sure that I informed them that there was this mistake situation in February that was now getting close to coming to some kind of conclusion,” he said, “and their decision was that it is a mistake, they know how serious it is, but they decided to support me and I appreciate them for that.”

Coming off their first playoff appearance since 2008, the White Sox are regarded as one of baseball’s up-and-coming clubs heading into next season. But skepticism about the hiring of La Russa was compounded by his arrest, making a dent in the positive picture surrounding the franchise.

The team said Monday in a statement that it understands “the anger and concern expressed by some about hiring Tony under these circumstances.” It also said La Russa knows “there is no safety net below him.”

“Tony has a proud and productive history with the White Sox and Major League Baseball, which is why we are standing by him,” the team said. “He has done his job exceptionally well in the past. He has always shown an ability to inspire his players and to bring his teams to a championship level. We are confident that Tony will improve our team, while improving himself.”

By JAY COHEN, AP Sports Writer

Associated Press writer Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix contributed to this report.

FOX 2 Newsletters

Sign up for a newsletter from FOX 2 to get updates about news and weather. We offer daily headlines, breaking news, severe weather, and forecast emails.

St. Louis Sports

FOX2 Sports is your home for the latest information about the St. Louis Cardinals, the St. Louis Blues, Saint Louis University, the University of Missouri, and the University of Illinois.

Are the Cardinals making a big trade? Are the Blues ready for another Stanley Cup run? Is someone going to sign a major free-agent deal? Are the Tigers, Billikens and Illini bringing in the next big recruiting class? We cover all the big games that matter.

The MLS is coming to St. Louis in 2023 and we’ll be here for the start of STL SC too. The XFL thrived in its reboot season playing at the Dome at America’s Center, and if the BattleHawks return in 2022, we’ll be there to tackle it.

St. Louis is home to some of the best high school student-athletes who go on to succeed in the pros and beyond. Before Larry Hughes, Bradley Beal and Jayson Tatum made a name for themselves as Division I NCAA basketball stars at SLU, Florida, and Duke, they played at CBC and Chaminade. Before Ezekiel Elliott, Sheldon Richardson and Jeremy Maclin became Ohio State Buckeyes and Missouri Tigers and NFL first-round draft picks, they went to John Burroughs, Gateway Tech and Kirkwood. All of them were featured in the FOX2 Prep Zone before they went off to the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten and beyond.

Members of our team, including Sports Director Martin Kilcoyne, Charlie Marlow, and Rich Gould have covered every significant moment in St. Louis sports since 1987, from the football Cardinals’ departure for Arizona to the arrival of the St. Louis Rams; from the Mark McGwire home run chase to the Cardinals’ World Series titles, to the St. Louis Rams and the Greatest Show on Turf era’s Super Bowl crown; from Brett Hull to Vladimir Tarasenko, we’ve covered the Blues all the way to the team’s first Stanley Cup.

Think of all the great characters in St. Louis area sports history. Jack Buck, Mike Shannon, Charlie Spoonhour, Norm Stewart, Whitey Herzog, Tony LaRussa, Stan Musial, Dick Vermiel, Lou Brock, Albert Pujols, Kurt Warner, Ozzie Smith, Hull, Pat Maroon, Keith Tkachuk, Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright, David Freese. All of them talk to us.


Latest News

More News