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updated: 10/30/2011 8:24 PM

Did La Russa just run his final lap?

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  • Cardinals manager Tony La Russa celebrates his third World Series title, the second with St. Louis.

      Cardinals manager Tony La Russa celebrates his third World Series title, the second with St. Louis.
    Associated Press

 
 

White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and executive vice president Howard Pizer reportedly attended Game 7 of the World Series in St. Louis.

The assumption is that they were there to celebrate with good friend Tony La Russa if his Cardinals won the championship.

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Another possibility is that Reinsdorf and Pizer traveled to St. Louis because they perceived it to be, at least possibly could be, La Russa's final game as a major-league manager.

This season could be characterized as the best and worst of times for La Russa. He suffered shingles early, managed on medication and in the end won the World Series.

Being as focused, committed and even obsessed as La Russa has been while managing for 33 seasons is difficult at even 100 percent healthy.

Doing so while fighting illness is more difficult. Doing it next year at age 68 might seem impossible to La Russa.

I'm just speculating about this like everybody else. La Russa has said this about his future: One, he'll decide by mid-November; two, he won't manage anyone but the Cardinals.

So La Russa won't ever return to the Sox, whom he managed from 1979 to 1986. Unless, that is, he gets a Jack McKeon-like itch in his 80s.

It was suggested half-jokingly to La Russa a couple of years ago that if then-general manager Hawk Harrelson hadn't fired him he'd be in his fourth decade as Sox manager.

La Russa rolled his eyes as if to say that's a dumb observation. Nobody manages one team that long anymore.

La Russa did just fine without the White Sox by going to Oakland and St. Louis, reaching the World Series six times and winning three of them.

The White Sox? They went to one and won one.

I always thought Reinsdorf would lure La Russa back at some point because he needed closure for what he calls his worst mistake -- letting La Russa get away.

Even worse was not rehiring La Russa between his A's and Cardinals gigs, instead giving the job to Terry Bevington.

Anyway, something about La Russa the past few weeks made me think he was circling his final lap as a manager. He looked from a distance to be more at peace, more smiley than usual, especially considering what was at stake.

It was easy to start contemplating whether La Russa would be more likely to return if he made the playoffs, if he won the World Series, if potential free agent Albert Pujols re-signed with St. Louis.

Who knows? Maybe not even La Russa does, which is why he'll take a couple of weeks to think it over.

Another possibility is that La Russa does know whether he'll end or extend his managing career and either way didn't want his intentions to distract the Cardinals.

After being under this silly organized baseball circus tent for nearly a half-century, La Russa might be tempted to finally devote an entire year to his family.

As odd as La Russa's more mellow appearance was in recent weeks, baseball will seem odder without him whenever he does leave.

Maybe he feels now this is the time for the game to move on without him and him without it, at least in uniform and the dugout.

So, was that why Jerry Reinsdorf and Howard Pizer were in St. Louis for Game 7 last week? To see their friend go out on top of the baseball world?

It'll be interesting to learn in a couple of weeks whether they sensed or even knew something the rest of us didn't.

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