MILWAUKEE -- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa sat at his desk, glasses low on his nose, and scribbled notes as he went through the lineup card.
La Russa has filled out thousands of lineup cards during his tenure in the Major Leagues, and Friday's 8-0 loss marked the 5,000th game he's managed. The 66-year-old managed for the White Sox and A's before coming to St. Louis in 1996, and Friday night's milestone struck a chord with someone who played for and coached with La Russa -- Mark McGwire.
"The guy -- I'm biased -- but I don't think there's anybody better in the game that knows how to manage, knows how to take care of his players, knows how to get his players ready, knows how to take guys that play different positions and turn them into other position players, knows how to manage a bullpen," McGwire said. "It's just awesome. I mean, his record speaks for itself."
La Russa did not want the focus to be on him Friday night, as he sits at No. 2 all-time for most games managed in the big leagues, behind Connie Mack's 7,755, and instead wanted his team to continue to practice what he preaches. The Cardinals lead the Brewers by 1 1/2 games in the NL Central, and keeping distractions to a minimum is part of the manager's business-like approach that McGwire experienced.
"The important thing is we work hard at not being distracted. All our concentration should be on this series against Milwaukee, and so I don't want to distract us," La Russa said.
The manager said his 5,000th game was a testament to all of the organizations he's worked for, and Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke didn't sidestep La Russa's milestone either. Roenicke, 54, coached his 64th career Major League game Friday night and said he spoke with his staff about La Russa's longevity.
"We were talking about it inside, and 5,000 is unbelievable as a manager," Roenicke said. "He's not just hanging around, he's winning, and he has with different organizations. It's pretty incredible."
One of the things that has surprised McGwire the most during the time he's spent around La Russa is the way the manager is able to flip a switch between his business demeanor and his light-hearted side.
"He's serious between the lines and it's like, why would you want anything to get in your way?" McGwire said. "It's like when you're a player, it's almost like tunnel vision, but away from the park, he's as fun as can be. We have great times, great talks over a glass of wine, and I eat the red meat and he's a vegetarian, but he's just a really good guy."