- Associated Press - Friday, July 23, 2010

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Tightlipped and terse, Tony La Russa was a big change from Whitey Herzog when he joined the St. Louis Cardinals in 1996.

In his first 14 seasons, La Russa produced eight postseason appearances and a World Series championship. He’s the franchise’s winningest manager. Loosened up some, too.

All of that is good for second place in the hearts and minds of the team’s fan base who cannot forget the magic of the Herzog years. The all-Busch Stadium II team, voted on by fans in 2005, is headed by Herzog, the man from small-town New Athens, Ill.

“Tough act? That’s not how you look at it, you’ve got a job to do,” La Russa said. “But I don’t think, popularity-wise, Whitey, no matter how long he’s not been around he’s not going to lose his place.”

It’s been 20 years since Herzog, who’ll be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., this weekend, last managed a game for the Cardinals. For much of that time, fans pined in vain for his return.

Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who replaced Herzog as Cardinals manager in 1990, believes the recognition is long overdue for the 78-year-old Herzog.

“He was a tough customer, the ballclub always took on his personality,” Torre said. “Whitey in my opinion is a very brilliant baseball mind, never afraid to fail. I’m just happy he’s in the Hall of Fame and think it should have happened before now.”

La Russa feels the same way.

“It’s been coming,” he said. “I don’t think there was any question he was going to get in, it was just a matter of time. He had a great career.”

It seems like yesterday for some who were around to witness the rise of the franchise under the imaginative leadership of the man _ after he was a white-haired little boy _ known as the White Rat.

Herzog played eight mostly forgettable seasons in the majors. He was a career .257 hitter and never had more than 38 RBIs in a season. His fame came later.

The Cardinals hired Herzog as manager midway through the 1980 season and shortly thereafter added general manager to his title. After stops in Texas, California and Kansas City, where he led the Royals to 90 wins and their first AL West title, he immediately put his stamp on the Cardinals, engineering three blockbuster trades involving 21 players at the winter meetings after the ‘80 season.

He acquired a pair of Hall of Famers, reliever Bruce Sutter from the Cubs and shortstop Ozzie Smith from the Padres.

“He sort of changed what being a general manager was all about, making deals that he put together as a manager which is sort of like we do in football. ‘If you want this player, you’re going to have take this one, this one and this one,’” Torre said. “I thought it was pretty brazen, but it made sense.”

The Cardinals won their first World Series in 15 years in 1982, and took NL pennants in 1985 and 1987 with a team built for speed and a style of play known as Whiteyball.

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