Tony La Russa ought to be ashamed of himself.
When you’re as drunk as a skunk, asleep at an intersection with your head buried in your steering wheel, with your foot still on the brake and with your blood-alcohol level unacceptably high after you got smashed at dinner with crooner Vic Damon — and La Russa was allegedly guilty of all of the above one night last week -— then you’re a threat and a potential killer, and you ought to be ashamed of yourself.
And yet if La Russa is ashamed of himself, he won’t say. At the St. Louis Cardinals’ picturesque training site here in Jupiter, Fla., the veteran manager neither admits his transgression nor discusses the incident in which he was arrested and released from the Palm Beach County jail after posting a $500 US cash bond for driving while impaired. His lips are sealed.
Oh, he doesn’t mind chatting about the World Series championship the Cards plan to defend in the coming season. He likes discussing the improving health of his star centre fielder, Jim Edmonds, or his plans to turn Kip Wells into his No. 2 starting pitcher behind Chris Carpenter, or the greatness of his first baseman, Albert Pujols, or anything relating to on-field matters.
Ask him about what a moron he was the other night, however, and he’ll simply let you know that he’s appreciative of the Cards’ fans, who’ve been offering him loud, warm ovations daily since he was busted.
“The fans are great to me,” allowed La Russa, one of the most successful managers in MLB history. “Over the years, you do things and you don’t want to have it go in the other direction. You work hard at a good image. You don’t want it to change.”
OK, but you certainly flirt with an image change when you drive drunk and, also, when you’re 62 and suddenly wearing a very conspicuous tattoo on your shoulder — a tribal design, with dark swoops and hooks and pointed loops.
“I told my wife and two daughters that, if I’m ever part of another world championship, I would do something cool, which is quite unlike me,” La Russa said. “I was supposed to get an earring, actually, but we agreed the tattoo was better because it can be covered. This tattoo is enough of a cool statement for a guy who is not really cool. I guess I’m trying to be cool.”
Drunk driving, though? Not cool. They don’t allow designated hitters in the National League, Tony, but, hey, there’s nothing wrong with designated drivers.