ST. LOUIS (AP) - Tony La Russa is poised to become the winningest manager in St. Louis Cardinals' history. Given a choice, he'd prefer to pass on this milestone.
That's because the man La Russa needs just one win to catch and two to pass is a Hall of Famer, one of his most trusted lieutenants and a franchise icon.
Red Schoendienst, 84, produced 1,041 victories from the bench after a Hall of Fame career as a second baseman.
He won consecutive pennants and a World Series in the late 1960s, and long ago earned La Russa's respect.
``Red was what he is now: he is an outstanding baseball man,'' La Russa said. ``His opinions are right on. When he says something we all listen.''
Schoendienst managed for 12 seasons, the longest in franchise history, although La Russa is wrapping up his 12th with the Cardinals. Wistfully, La Russa said he'd like to give up his position to Schoendienst so that Schoendienst could remain No. 1.
``If he wants the job and wants me as his bench coach, he can have it tomorrow,'' La Russa said. ``There isn't anything more sincere than 'Red Schoendienst should be the career leader.'''
It's a nice symbolic gesture from an avid student of baseball history. Schoendienst wore the Cardinals uniform for 45 seasons as player, coach and manager, made 10 All-Star teams, and remains involved as a special assistant to general manager Walt Jocketty.
Until a few years ago, Schoendienst hit fungoes to fielders in pre-game practice. His No. 2 jersey was retired in 1996 and a statue commemorating his accomplishments sits outside Busch Stadium. He was 1,041-955 with the Cardinals, a winning percentage of .522, while La Russa sits at 1,040-867, a winning percentage of .545.
The reality is La Russa will be No. 1.
Already, La Russa has passed a lot of other worthies over the years, ranking third overall with 2,360 managerial wins, trailing only Connie Mack and John McGraw.
``You can't lose games on purpose, and unless they fire me what are you going to do?'' La Russa said. ``I don't want to pass him. I'd swear on my children and the animals (in my house), and I can't do better than that.
``I don't want to pass him.''
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