How Tony La Russa and Dusty Baker (kind of) made peace

  • Senior writer ESPN Magazine/ESPN.com
  • Analyst/reporter ESPN television
  • Author of “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty”

For more than five decades, Tony La Russa and Dusty Baker have had a, well, complicated relationship. A lot of it has been shaped by competition between the pair — for division titles, on behalf of the players each of them managed, even for the same roster spot. Their falling-out has become famous, as they constantly found themselves on opposite sides of some of baseball’s nastiest rivalries. Their most notable communication has come shouting at each other on the field — and rarely speaking outside of the ballpark.

But Baker, 73, and La Russa, 77, are baseball’s two oldest managers, and finally, it seems, time has healed. During the recent weekend series between the Astros and White Sox, it appeared that fences are being mended, based on how Baker and La Russa described the evolution of their connection.

“A lot of that stuff that happened with us was when we were in the same division,” said Baker, who explained that the funeral of a cherished teammate helped begin the thaw — in an unlikely place.

Pitcher Bob Welch played with Baker on the Dodgers, sharing in a championship with him in 1981, and later, La Russa managed Welch for the Oakland Athletics, including in 1989, when the A’s won the World Series. But Welch was widely beloved for far more than what he did on the field, and so when he died suddenly at age 57 in 2014, friends and family were devastated. Baker and La Russa were among those who attended the services for Welch, and as Baker recalls, another former player of both of them encouraged them to talk. Coincidentally, Baker remembered, they did so — while standing at adjacent urinals.

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