"My preference is not to disrespect Chicago, Oakland or St. Louis," La Russa said, citing the three teams he managed to 2,728 regular season wins, six pennants and three World Series titles. "They're all a part of it. So, I hope there's a way to do it without disrespecting anybody."
In recent years, the Hall has made the call about such matters. It's an easy one on Bobby Cox, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas. Glavine and Cox spent most of their stellar careers in Atlanta, as did Thomas with the White Sox. Greg Maddux came up with the Cubs, but he really rose to prominence with the Braves -- the team on which he, Glavine and Cox spent a decade together.
Torre managed five teams to 2,326 regular season wins, beginning with the Mets and ending with the Dodgers. But there should be no question which team he represents in the hallowed Hall.
"The only thing I can say is that I didn't get any more hits as a player from the time I wasn't considered to the time I was," said Torre, who had 2,342 of them in his 18 big league seasons. "I'm guessing going in as a Yankee would be the case. If it wasn't for the Yankees, I wouldn't have been where I am -- in the Hall of Fame, or even seriously considered for the Hall of Fame. But it's [the Hall of Fame's] decision, and they're in the process."
Torre won all of his six pennants and four World Series titles while wearing No. 6 for the Yankees. He was in pinstripes from 1996-2007, and in every one of those 12 seasons the Yankees made it to the playoffs.
In contrast, La Russa didn't have the on-field career enjoyed by Torre, playing in only 132 big league games. As a manager, he began his career by guiding the White Sox for eight seasons (1979-86) and winning the American League West in '83.
La Russa went on to spend 10 seasons in Oakland and his last 16 with the Cardinals. He took all three teams to the playoffs and was named Manager of the Year in each spot -- 1983 with the White Sox, '88 and '92 with the A's, and 2002 with the Cardinals. His A's teams won three pennants and the '89 World Series, and his St. Louis clubs won three more pennants and a pair of World Series titles.
It's a close call, and thus one can understand La Russa's reluctance to state a preference. Perhaps three insignias on the cap would be just the elixir.
"The Hall is really a celebration of players," La Russa said. "If you coach or you manage, you come in on their coattails. In Joe's case, he was a real player. He could have made it as a player. Bobby was a better player than I was. I still believe this is recognition for players. But I have great respect for the coaching profession -- managers and coaches -- so to represent them [under any circumstances] is an honor."
The six-headed Class is the most stellar since the Hall inducted the first four Classes of 11 players when the red-bricked museum opened on Main Street in 1939. Never before have three managers been inducted on the same afternoon. They rank third, fourth and fifth in managerial victories in Major League history, each winning more than 2,000 games. The Hall hasn't inducted as many as six living baseball greats at the same time since 1971.
Having two 300-game winners going in on the same day is also a rarity, and never have two long-time teammates with those kind of numbers been inducted at the same time. Maddux won 355 games -- the most of anyone since Warren Spahn retired with 363 in 1965. Glavine had 305.
Maddux played for both Cox with the Braves and Torre with the Dodgers.
"It's quite an impressive group, that's all I can say," Torre said. "I'm pretty excited about it. To be a part of this class is something special. A lot of these people I've admired. I've digested it. Tony and I talk often."
And they both managed against or with all of the players in the class.
"I got beat by all of them time and time again," La Russa said with a laugh. "Both Greg and Tom are 'pitchers,' in quotes, who could pitch. They could move the ball around, had great command, great intelligence. Then you get Frank. Frank was one of the icons of our time, had power to all fields and hit for high average. I'm thrilled, honored. It's going to be an incredible weekend."