With runners on second and third and two outs in the top of the 11th inning of Tuesday night’s marathon on the South Side, the few thousand fans remaining began shouting unsolicited advice to Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa.
Toronto Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was at the plate against Vince Velasquez, and fans called for an intentional walk to load the bases.
Did La Russa hear the fans’ advice?
“I didn’t think they liked walks,” he said with a grin before Wednesday’s game.
La Russa, of course, was referring to the infamous intentional walk he ordered for Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner with a 1-2 count on June 9, a move widely panned by baseball experts and fans alike.
A couple of weeks later he can laugh about the uproar, which put La Russa in the national spotlight and made him a moving target for his most vocal critics.
Guerrero wound up grounding to third to end the 11th, making the decision not to walk him a good one. Had it not worked out, La Russa no doubt would’ve heard it from the crowd. “Fire Tony” chants had already sounded out during the Blue Jays’ three-run eighth.
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As he stated previously, La Russa doesn’t mind hearing it from opinionated Sox fans.
“I’ve said it 100 times, man, I like that they’re here and they care,” La Russa said. “And if they’re displeased and it’s with me, I’d rather them be here and care than not care and not be here. In that particular (situation) I know some coaches went to the top step and yelled back, like, ‘Whaddaya say now?’ or something like that.”
La Russa didn’t name the coaches, then asked aloud: “You know what the guy on deck (Alejandro Kirk) is hitting against us? Gee whiz, he’s a killer. We have a tough time getting him out.”
Kirk has a .353 average (6-for-17) against the Sox this season with three home runs and a 1.362 OPS.
Getting back to the advice, how did the coaches hear the fans but not La Russa?
“I heard noise,” he replied.
Informed that reporters could hear the fans from the press box located hundreds of feet from the dugout, La Russa said: “You’re paying more attention. I was just concentrating on the game. Mostly I was hoping we’d get an out. I believe in self-talk. You talk to yourself a lot, you don’t hear some people. You listen to yourself.”
There is precedent for letting fans make the decisions during a game. Back on Aug. 24, 1951, St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck handed out “Yes” and “No” placards to 1,100 fans he called “grandstand managers” and let them vote on things such as whether to steal or replace the pitcher. It’s unlikely Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf would replicate that promotion so fans could tell La Russa how to manage a game.
After the Sox came back to win 7-6 in 12 innings, La Russa walked from his office to his news conference. A few dozen fans waiting for him to pass so they could exit their scout seats began chanting, “Tony, Tony.”
No word on whether La Russa heard the noise.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism