CHICAGO -- When chairman Jerry Reinsdorf bought the White Sox in 1981, one of the first things he thought that he was going to have do was fire then manager Tony La Russa because the television broadcasters, Harry Caray and Jimmy Piersall, kept talking about how bad La Russa was at running the ballclub.
"Then, I met him and realized how wrong they were," Reinsdorf said on Tuesday. "Obviously having two people connected with the White Sox going in [the Hall of Fame] at one time is special, but it's really special for me to see Tony go in knowing how he suffered early in his career and the abuse he took, and to see that he proved all the critics were wrong.
"I just wish Harry Caray were alive," Reinsdorf added.
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Reinsdorf described his relationship with La Russa as "becoming like brothers" over the years, adding that as great of a manager as La Russa is, "he's a better human being. Just a great person."
One of Reinsdorf's greatest regrets as an owner was eventually letting go of La Russa, after current TV broadcaster Ken 'Hawk' Harrelson took over as the team's general manager in 1985. La Russa and Harrelson had a difference of philosophy during the '86 season, per Harrelson's comments on Tuesday, and Reinsdorf believed that someone running a department should have his own people in place.
That in-season dismissal didn't happen, though, before Reinsdorf called Roy Eisenhardt, the president of the A's, and set up La Russa for his next managerial gig. Jackie Moore was fired as Oakland's manager six days later, replaced in the interim by Jeff Newman. La Russa came in three weeks after the Moore firing.
"It was the biggest regret [letting him go]," Reinsdorf said. "Well, it was the combination, naming a general manager that shouldn't have been a general manager and then letting him fire Tony."
"He managed what 33, 34 years in the big leagues, and it's funny he only got fired one time, and you're talking to the [person] that fired him," Harrelson said, smiling. "He might go down as certainly one of, but maybe the best manager we've ever seen."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.