Tony La Russa is a “Hall of Famer baseball person.”
You probably knew that already, but if, for example, you happened upon a drunken Tony La Russa behind the wheel of (or standing next to) his car, he’d be happy to tell you. How do we know? Because Jeff Passan over at ESPN got his hands on the police report from La Russa’s second DUI arrest in 13 years.
According to police reports, La Russa told officers who arrived on the scene of him standing next to his disabled car, that he’d had “one glass of wine with dinner,” and then proceeded to ask “Do you see my ring?” I’m a Hall of Famer baseball person. I’m legit. I’m a Hall of Famer, brother.”
As someone who spent a couple of years as a baby public defender in DUI court, let me assure you that “one drink with dinner” is the standard amount of alcohol drivers claim to have had when they are inevitably caught driving drunk. And reader, they have almost always had more than one drink with dinner. “Hall of Famer baseball person” is not that way one describes oneself after one glass of wine.
In the past 20 years, cops have become really good at convicting people for DUIs, which are huge money makers for local governments, but which also significantly screw up the lives of people who are legitimately not driving drunk but are arrested anyway. One prosecutor I used to work with acknowledged as much, often saying “Anyone can get one DUI. And I mean ANYONE.” But this isn’t La Russa’s first DUI. It’s his second. And we’d be naive if we thought he’s never driven while under the influence between his DUI arrest in 2007 and his DUI arrest in February 2020.
There are a lot of reasons Tony La Russa is not a good fit for the White Sox, his baseball “traditionalism,” if you will, his support for the Tea Party an anti-immigration laws on a team full of immigrants are just a few. And here’s another one: In many states, a second DUI within a set period means automatic jail time.
In Arizona, where the White Sox hold spring training, a second DUI within five years carries a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 30 days in jail. In Florida, where La Russa got his first DUI and where the White Sox will undoubtedly play in the coming years, there’s a mandatory 10-day jail sentence for a second DUI in five years. In Illinois, where La Russa will spend most of his time, a second DUI conviction carries a mandatory sentence of five days in jail or 240 hours of public service. The White Sox should think long and hard about what happens if their manager gets a third DUI in spring training and winds up having to do 30 days behind bars.
What’s more, no one winds up with two DUIs unless they have a significant drinking problem. The fact that La Russa was willing to get behind the wheel of a car after any amount of alcohol after the public embarrassment of being found asleep at an intersection in Jupiter, Fla., is evidence of a problem.
Whatever you think of Tony La Russa — relic or game-changing genius — baseball should not be his top priority this season, and the White Sox players shouldn’t have to spend their season worrying about their manager having one too many at the hotel after the game.
Let’s give Tony La Russa the space he needs to get well, and the White Sox players the manager they deserve.