After a trio of Atlanta Braves, Greg Maddux, Bobby Cox and Tom Glavine, gave speeches, it was time for the audience to turn their attention to the three-time World Series champion manager, La Russa. La Russa began his baseball career playing for the Kansas City, and then Oakland, Athletics in 1963, and then from 1968-’71.
La Russa joked about not being inducted as a player, but as a manager and says that hearing the truth about that hurt him. But, there was never any doubt when it came to the end of his managerial career that La Russa was bound for Cooperstown.
After leading the Chicago White Sox from 1979-’86, La Russa was fired. It was the only time he was fired as a manager. La Russa then managed the Oakland A’s from 1986-’95, where he led the A’s to the World Series three straight years, with the club winning in 1989. La Rusaa then went to manage the St. Louis Cardinals, where he would win two additional World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.
La Russa, the 4x Manager of the Year (’83, ’88, ’92, ’02), finished his managerial career with a record of 2,728–2,365 (a .536 winning percentage). La Russa’s win total is good for third in MLB history.
Up next was “The Big Hurt” Frank Thomas, the mammoth-sized slugger. Although, Thomas was inducted as a member of the White Sox, he recently said to Susan Slusser that that 2006 season with Oakland solidified his position as a HOFer.
“We had a wonderful, wonderful season there, and I really think that got me to the Hall of Fame,” said Thomas.
As the 6′ 5″ Thomas stood at the podium, all 250-plus pounds of him, tears ran down his eyes as he gave his speech to the audience, also reiterating his stance that Oakland helped his HOF bid.
Thomas played with the White Sox from 1990 to 2005, when injuries plagued him in his final season with Chicago and he missed the team’s World Series run. After given the boot, Thomas headed to Oakland, where he would re-birth his career, hitting 39 HRs and 114 RBI in that season, leading the A’s to the 2006 ALCS for the first time since 1990.
Thomas finished his career batting .301 with 2,468 hits and 521 HRs and also ended his award-filled career with five all star game appearances, four Silver Slugger Awards and two MVPs.
La Russa and Thomas, both remembered more-so for their efforts in other uniforms, will always have a place in Oakland history. Congrats to you both, as well as Joe Torre and the rest of the 2014 MLB Hall of Fame class.