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“I saw him smile more in the last few months during games than I ever saw in the eight years that I was here before it,” Carpenter said. “He was enjoying the moment, but I didn’t know it.”

La Russa gave a signal of his intentions to Duncan, his former teammate and his pitching coach since they were together on the White Sox. Duncan left the team for several weeks to tend to his ailing wife, and La Russa asked whether Duncan could return in time for the regular-season finale.

Chris Duncan, a son of the pitching coach, who played for La Russa in St. Louis, said he was fairly certain this meant the end.

Tony wanted his longtime sidekick, the coach who’s been with him all the way, with him if it was going to be his last game,” Chris Duncan told The Associated Press. “That was important to him.”

La Russa said it was definite that he’d never manage again and added he has no desire to be a general manager, a job he described as the hardest in baseball. He would be open to a position in baseball in the future, but probably not with the Cardinals.

“Me personally, I think it’s time to step away for a long while,” La Russa said

Hired by Bill Veeck for his first major league managing job with the White Sox, La Russa was fired by White Sox GM Ken Harrelson.

“I allowed the general manager to fire him. That was the worst mistake I ever made,” Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said. “It turned about to be great for Tony, though, because he left here at a time we weren’t doing well and he went to Oakland right at the time that all of their talent came to fruition.”

La Russa managed teams to 12 first-place finishes and six pennants, going to the World Series in three straight years with the A’s from 1988-90. He also lost in the Series with the Cardinals in 2004.

Tony wanted to win in spring training,” Leyland said. “He wanted everything done right from the start. It’s like he was born to manage.”

Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said he didn’t try to talk La Russa out of his decision. The manager had taken his time in recent years deciding whether to return to baseball.

“I said, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’” DeWitt said. “I respected his decision. It was never about ‘Do you want me to come back?’”

“We’re not going to find a Tony La Russa out there, given his career and what he’s accomplished, what he’s meant to the Cardinals,” DeWitt said.

Mozeliak said the new manager will be given autonomy to hire staff. Duncan is under contract for 2012, but will likely also retire.

Mozeliak didn’t think La Russa’s departure would affect negotiations with Albert Pujols, a free agent for the first time after 11 seasons with the Cardinals.

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