Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa passes John McGraw with his 2,764th victory — 2nd in MLB history: ‘Real emotional for me ... started here and it’s ended up here’

Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
White Sox closer Liam Hendriks celebrates the 3-0 win over the Tigers on June 6, 2021, at Guaranteed Rate Field. Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune

Tony La Russa received hugs in the dugout after Liam Hendriks struck out Nomar Mazara for the final out Sunday.

The hugs and handshakes continued from the players on the field before the Chicago White Sox manager waved to the crowd as he made his way back to the dugout.

La Russa earned career victory No. 2,764, the second-most for a manager in major-league history, as the Sox beat the Detroit Tigers 3-0 in front of 20,068 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“It’s real emotional for me that it started here and it’s ended up here,” said La Russa, whose managerial career began in 1979 with the Sox. “It’s hard for me imagine that.”

La Russa entered the day tied for second with John McGraw.

“I realized two things which helped me not take anything personal: (McGraw) was a much better player than I was and he’s got a much higher winning percentage,” La Russa said. “I beat him with longevity and great situations.”

He now trails only Connie Mack, who had 3,731 career victories.

“It’s beyond sacred,” La Russa said of Mack’s mark. “Unattainable. I didn’t even think this was attainable, actually. I’m talking about the last four, five years of my career. I didn’t think this was ever going to happen. Even the year I retired, my family was very upset because they wanted this to happen. But you go out when you think you’re done.

“This doesn’t change a lot. My dad said, ‘Look in the mirror, make sure that you don’t fool yourself and keep it simple.’ And I was gifted the opportunity, a career of longevity and good fortune, to get a chance to manage this club, back where I started.”

Sox players marveled at the total.

“That’s a lot of wins,” center fielder Adam Engel said. “That’s probably the coolest stat any professional can have is wins. You have guys who can hit a lot of home runs, have a lot of strikeouts, but at the end of the day, you are trying to win the game.

“To be a part of that many wins, it’s unbelievable.”

Starting pitcher Dylan Cease said he was unaware the milestone was in reach entering the game.

“I don’t know if it would’ve changed anything — it might have made me try too hard, I don’t know,” Cease said. “It’s pretty incredible.”

Cease had a sharp outing, allowing five hits with 10 strikeouts and one walk in seven innings.

“Today was one of those days where I felt like I had three if not four of my pitches for strikes,” Cease said. “I was getting ahead pretty well. I brought my good curveball and my good slider and pretty good fastball command.”

Cease bounced back from his last start, in which he allowed six runs in 3⅓ innings Tuesday in Cleveland . He struck out at least two in an inning three times Sunday. He also received strong defense, including Engel jumping to rob Niko Goodrum of a home run in the fifth in his first game back from the injured list .

“That was probably the most incredible catch I’ve ever had behind me,” Cease said.

All three runs scored in the second. Andrew Vaughn had an RBI single and Tim Anderson drove in two with a single. Anderson and Nick Madrigal each had two hits as the Sox took three of four in the series.

Hendriks struck out two in a perfect ninth for his 15th save, and the Sox increased their lead in the American League Central to four games over the second-place Indians.

Afterward, La Russa reflected on mentors, coaching staffs, Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and players.

“It’s about the players and they play for the fans,” La Russa said. “And we have never been distracted by anything else and our coaching staffs have been devoted to it. They’re really devoted to the sport, which means players play and entertain the fans.

“I feel very fortunate the places I’ve been. The first good fortune is the family that allowed me to do this job. It’s a very away-from-home job. Without them allowing me to do it, it never would have happened.”

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