DECATUR — St. Louis Cardinals fan Steve Samuelson was one of the first in what turned out to be a long line Sunday at Haines & Essick to have copies of the book “One Last Strike” by former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa signed by its author.
La Russa spent close to four hours signing his book — first for event sponsors at the Neuhoff Media offices before coming through the back of Haines & Essick with police escort (and Cardinals fan) Greg Spain, then sitting down to sign for the general public.
Samuelson had a short chat with La Russa while he signed the three-book limit for Samuelson, mostly about what the title of La Russa’s book refers to — the Cardinals coming down to the final strike on two different occasions against the Texas Rangers in the 2011 World Series before rallying to win Game 6, and later the series.
“We just talked about the crazy Game 6, and how ridiculous it was that they did it again this year against Washington,” Samuelson said.
“It was a joy managing those guys … a team that doesn’t quit,” La Russa responded.
The encounters during the signing were brief — La Russa chatted while he signed, shook hands and turned to find the next book to sign. Most thanked La Russa for his successful reign as manager. But there also a few more memorable exchanges.
While La Russa signed Emily Knuckles’ book, she told him she wrote a persuasive paper in a college course that argued the Cardinals’ Game 6 comeback was the greatest in baseball history.
“I got an A,” Knuckles told him.
“Well, you’re lucky the professor wasn’t a Cubs fan,” La Russa said.
Amy Waite and Tom Hill appeared in a Nov. 22, 2011 H&R story when they got married on 11/11/11 based on a bet they made late in the baseball season. Waite recounted the story to La Russa.
“We made a bet when you were 9 1/2 games back, if you came back and won the World Series, we’d get married,” she told him.
La Russa asked them if they’d went through with it, and they said they had. Then Waite left him with a folded-up clipping of the newspaper article and told La Russa, “Read it later.”
La Russa took off his three World Series rings and had no problem with people — even kids — handling the rings. While signing at WSOY for sponsors, he posed for a picture with J.L. Hubbard Insurance and Bonds president Kevin Brehaney wearing the rings while La Russa wore a red Cardinals jacked filled with various Cardinals patches that Brehaney had brought to be signed.
La Russa joked, “I thought my rings were gaudy. I don’t wear them a lot because they draw attention. That jacket will definitely draw some attention.”
After posing with the jacket on, La Russa signed it and handed it back to Brehaney, laughing and saying, “That’s a nice-looking jacket.”
Unlike Samuelson, who said he planned to read the book during a holiday break, Brehaney had read the book and told La Russa he enjoyed it.
La Russa responded with the same answer he gave to everyone who commented about the book: “It’s hard to believe all those stories are true, but they are.”
l Someone brought up this year’s playoffs and La Russa told them, “I’m still upset about them not beating the Giants.”
l A group that included former Maroa-Forsyth and current University of Wisconsin-Whitewater football player Zach Murphy were at the sponsors signing. While their memorabilia was signed, La Russa was informed Maroa-Forsyth had won the state title in football — so now he knows.
l A check for $1,000 was donated in La Russa’s name to the Decatur & Macon County Animal Shelter, whose president Shirley Stanley walked around the rest of the day with an oversized novelty check signed by La Russa. La Russa is a well-known animal lover. He runs the Tony La Russa Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF).
l Someone mentioned former Cardinal Albert Pujols’ visit to Decatur during the 2011 season when Pujols was trying to decide whether or not to re-sign with the
“Oh, you mean before he became a bad guy?” La Russa said, sarcastically.
l After he’d been signing for an hour-and-a-half, La Russa stood for awhile signing for a line of people that didn’t let up.
“I didn’t think this many people would come out and see me,” La Russa said.