* Tony La Russa, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox are bound for Cooperstown. .... Sign up for CBN Newsletter
By Bob Elliott
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. --It was a shock to cover manager Bobby Cox in 1985. At Olympic Stadium-- whether the manager was Dick Williams, Jim Fanning, Bill Virdon or Buck Rodgers -- after the final out, writers would head for the elevator, go downstairs, wait for the clubhouse doors to open and enter the manager's office for wisdom and varying degrees of wit. After a tough Blue Jays loss in 1985, I headed for the elevator at Exhibition Stadium. Someone hit the down button. I found my way down the left field line, entered the clubhouse and then the manager's office. It was empty as it was if the Jays were at Yankee Stadium. Half an hour later I found Cox sitting on a stool drinking a beer and talking to coach John Sullivan. After spitting out a few one-word answers "yep," and "nope," and his standard "for me? He pitched great," it was on to the players. Like policemen say at a car accident: Nothing to see here, move along. There was something to see Monday morning at the Disney Swan and Dolphin resort. There at the dais sat Robert Joseph Cox, 72, former Blue Jays and Atlanta Braves manager as the newest member of the Hall of Fame. Cox, who took the Jays to postseason play for the first time, was an unanimous selection along with former managers Tony La Russa and Joe Torre. Marvin Miller, George Steinbrenner and others on the ballot did not receive more than six of the required 12 votes from the 16-person Expansion Era committee, which included Jays president Paul Beeston. One March, about 15 years ago a few miles from here before a Braves spring game, I watched one of the most painful experiences ever for a writer: An Atlanta scribe had been asked to do a feature on Cox as he neared a managing milestone and whether Cooperstown was in his future. I got up to leave Cox's office, but Cox insisted I stay. Then, the questions, most of them well thought out and well prepared, began. The answers were terrible. "Ah, I don't belong with those guys, they were good managers." ... "Nope." ... "Yep." Driving back to Dunedin I chuckled at the poor writer's assignment. Never saw the story, but in 2006 I had the same chore one night in Atlanta. Telling the late Braves broadcaster Skip Caray my assignment he snickered, wished me luck and told me to come back when finished. Cox talked about a rescue centre he had set up for animals-- Homeless Pets Foundation-- with his wife, who had recently joined the Red Hatter's. He didn't want to talk about himself. Pulling teeth from a guy with dentures would have been easier Finding Caray, the announcer said Cox "took all the blame when the Braves lose and none of the credit when they win." "That's his personality, he doesn't have a ego," Caray said. "Some managers crave limelight. My father (Harry Caray) was the same way." Cox put on his Hall of Fame hat after Jane Forbes Clark made the announcement and pulled it down low so he could hide. "The Hall of Famers on the committee told me your life changes when you get elected to the Hall of Fame and mine had changed already," said Cox. "I can feel the goose bumps." Cox thanked former Braves general manager Bill Lucas, Hall of Fame GM Pat Gillick, who hired him with the Jays and Atlanta GM John Schuerholz for hiring him. "I hope in July both Tommy Glavine and Greg Maddux are with me, because they're the reason I'm standing here today," said Cox, referring to his Hall of Fame status. The induction ceremonies take place July 28 in Cooperstown, N.Y. "Bobby Cox was my second manager ever," said Andre Dawson a member of the committee. "The Expos sent me to Venezuela to play for the Lara Cardinales in 1975 ... just to watch. Some guys got hurt and I wound up playing. "I was in a rundown between first and second when Cookie Rojas hit my knee. I had to go to the hospital to have it drained. First thing Bobby said, 'Don't you dare tell the Expos you had your knee drained.'"
A quick look at the careers of the three managers selected to enter the Hall of Fame.
TONY LA RUSSA AGE: 69 MANAGED: 33 seasons, 16 with the Cardinals, 10 with the A's, eight with the White Sox. RECORD: 2728-2365 (.536) 33 six pennants, three World Series. MANAGER OF THE YEAR: 1983, 1988, 1992, 2002. FIRST MANAGING JOB: Double-A Knoxville (White Sox) 1978. HIRED FOR FIRST JOB BY: "Well a lot of my managers and coaches suggested I become a manager earlier -- when I was still playing. But I guess it would be George Kissell or Red Schoendienst." ON COUNTERPARTS: "With the White Sox, Jim Leyland and I would judge and try to learn from guys like Sparky Anderson, Whitey Herzog, Billy Martin. One night we were flying out of Toronto and Jim said, 'That guy in Toronto is pretty good, as good as any manager.'" And he was. JOE TORRE AGE: 73 MANAGED: 29 years, 12 with the Yankees, six with the Cardinals, five with the Mets, three with the Braves, three with the Dodgers. RECORD: 2326-1997 (.538) Six pennants, four World Series. MANAGER OF THE YEAR: 1996, 1998. FIRST MANAGING JOB: 1976 Mets. HIRED FOR FIRST JOB BY: Joe McDonald, M. Donald Grant. ON COUNTERPARTS: "Tony followed me in St. Louis. The thing about both Bobby and Tony was that they were ferocious competitors. BOBBY COX AGE: 72 MANAGED: 29 seasons, 25 with the Braves, four with the Blue Jays. RECORD: 2504-2001 (.556) five pennants, one World Series. MANAGER OF THE YEAR: 1985, 1991, 2004, 2005. FIRST MANAGING JOB: Class-A Fort Lauderdale (Yankees), 1971. HIRED FOR FIRST JOB BY: Andy MacPhail. "I was going to go home and coach football, but they offered me a $2,000 raise -- $2,000 was a lot of money back then." ON COUNTERPARTS: "Joe took my spot after I was fired in Atlanta and won the division. With Joe and Tony we were enemies on the field and friends off it."