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October 21, 2004

Tony La Russa


THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Tony La Russa.

Q. Can you put this in perspective, the fact that you guys are the first team to win the series, winning all games at home?

TONY La RUSSA: Well, I look at the four we won here, I look at the three Houston won there. I mean, there's no doubt that the enthusiasm of the crowds in both places were a factor in the games. Adrenaline starts kicking in and you get stronger and faster. I mean, even though we lost three games, that was exciting over there. You had to appreciate how much passion there was. We knew we had it, too. I just thought we were such a good road team, I thought we were just going to sneak a win there and we just couldn't.

Q. Talk about the importance of Edmonds' catch, how it kept you guys in the game.

TONY La RUSSA: Well, we have a unique club, our position players, they really like to play defense and they really like to run the bases. That's two places where sometimes nowadays there's not a lot of stats and money involved. We play defense. Jimmy, that was probably the game-saving play. That's going to be two runs, who knows how many more. Reggie Sanders in the first inning. Later on he tracks some very tough balls, if those balls fall, who knows what happens. If you give Roger too many runs, he's not going to catch them. I thought the defense early, they kept us in it. Sup (Suppan) started to settle in. The exhibition Edgar (Renteria) put on in the eighth inning, that's classic.

Q. Would you talk about what it would mean to bring a championship to St. Louis after being here since 1996?

TONY La RUSSA: Well, there's all kind of meaning. I think mostly about the guys who are part of our club, because there's a lot of guys in that club, only three guys have rings. So to play in the World Series, there's a lot of guys that have never been to the World Series before. A lot of guys do not have a World Series ring. That has great meaning, that's enough motivation there to play as good and as hard as we can. Obviously, you're always reminded here, every day I've been in this organization, there's a reminder of the Cardinals organization, Hall of Famers, people associated with the ballclub in the office, they like to compete, they like to win their share. Now we have a shot.

Q. A lot of teams, such as Boston seemed to win against odds, your team just kept winning all year long. Can you talk about that and the character it showed.

TONY La RUSSA: Well, I think February and March, I think the odds were not -- we went against the odds. We were picked to finish third at least, that was the best. We ended up finishing first. We definitely won a lot of games, like the four we won this series, a lot of close games. We were just relentless. I've only seen a couple of clubs I've been with that once we started playing well refused to back off. I think we always talked about our division was so tough we just didn't want to open the door for anybody. But that's hard to do. So, I mean, we had a lot of tough games, played great for a long time. These guys are really special between the ears but we've won a lot of tough games; it hasn't been easy.

Q. You used Womack in the seven spot in the batting order because of his back spasms. Are you going to keep that same order?

TONY La RUSSA: There's no way I spent any time thinking about it. Today was only because I thought there was a real chance that some time during the game it was going to spasm, then he would have to be replaced. And if he's hitting first, you're going to put somebody in the first hole when you turn that lineup around that would not be Edgar. That's the reason I did it now. It worked out today. I'm a little disappointed in myself because I have -- I thought a little bit about the pitchers that we're going to face in Boston; shouldn't be doing that, but can't help but look ahead, but I haven't looked at the lineup.

Q. It takes more than talent to win a championship. At what point during this season did you feel this was a special team that could accomplish what they did tonight?

TONY La RUSSA: Honest answer is about a week into spring training. Just looking at the guys, the talent, I mean, you get into spring training, repeating the same goofy drills they've been doing for 15 years and they're putting a lot into it. Nobody's half-stepping. I mean, in the past, when that's happened, if you've got the talent you're going to have -- what we say, the worst we're going to be is pretty good. We had a chance to be really good, and it turned out we were really good.

Q. Your three MVP candidates came through in Game 7 when it counted the most. Would you comment on that.

TONY La RUSSA: I mean, we beat a very good Dodger club. We won the four games against this great club. But, you know, I really respect the way they go about it. There was this magazine that did an article about the three of them. They didn't want to participate unless the ballclub was talked about. I'm definitely not going to get on the wrong side of these guys. We have a 25-man team, sounds corny, but that's how you win. So we have three guys that stand out in the season. We have a whole lot of other guys that are really good players, good pitchers, terrific competitors.

Q. How important was the suicide squeeze against Clemens in that situation? And can you comment briefly on Boston.

TONY La RUSSA: Well, you see he's pitching well, so man on second with nobody out is one of those situations that are big-momentum things. If they can stop you from scoring, they get the momentum. If you can score, if it happens, it's something good for you. We were at the bottom of the lineup. I thought we weren't going to bunt the man over at third, Mike Matheny did a great job of getting him over. That's a high-risk play. You put it on because if you don't, I don't think Sup is going to hit the ball out of the infield. So sometimes you go ahead and take a shot. Worst thing that can happen is Edgar is leading off the next inning. Boston, I admire what they went through. We played them in interleague play last year. A lot of those guys played three games in Fenway, so we're very familiar with how well and how tough they play.

Q. You mentioned earlier about how you were picked to finish third in the division. Talk about in effect beating Houston twice; first for the division and then in this series. And is Chris Carpenter available for the World Series?

TONY La RUSSA: Well, with Chris, he's making a lot of progress. I don't know if we can answer that. I think we're going to be very, very careful. He's got too much future, he's got too much talent. One of the reasons - and I mentioned earlier - we were so relentless, and it was really respect for our division. The whole league, where you play with the unbalanced schedule, you play so much in our division, we were never comfortable that Houston or Chicago wouldn't run off a big string of wins. We always knew you play Milwaukee or Chicago or Pittsburgh, they're really tough to play. So I think more than anything else, it wasn't just Houston. Our division was a real test. I think it really toughened both of us for this great series.

Q. What was your impression about the two pitches that Roger threw that Pujols was able to connect on and the one where Rolen, when he connected?

TONY La RUSSA: Well, the piece of hitting that Albert executed to get the double, I hadn't heard what Roger said, but I would guess it's within an inch or two of exactly where he wanted it with 90-plus. I mean, he should have jammed 90 percent of the hitters and Albert was able to stay inside, hit it hard, keep it fair. I mean, that's just great hitting. Not many guys have that type of stroke. And, you know, one of the keys to pitching is to get strike one. That's what Clemens does as well as anybody and then he works you over. Scott hit the first pitch. If you look back, Kent hit the first pitch to beat us the other day, and Bagwell hit the first pitch to tie the game in the ninth. It's what everybody tried to do; strike one, Scott was ready. I certainly don't think there was anything Roger Clemens did wrong.

Q. Any comments on your rotation for the World Series?

TONY La RUSSA: Well, I had a little trouble sleeping so I actually - you might as well dream - I started messing around with it. The problem talking about it is the architect of our pitching hasn't taken a look at it, told me what I'm going to do. So I'll wait to talk to Dunc (Dave Duncan). But I think we're going to line up pretty well and be able to compete.

Q. What are your thoughts now that it impacts your club, the winner of the All-Star Game getting home field advantage in the World Series?

TONY La RUSSA: We have a real good road club. On a day like today it's impossible to rain on our parade. We're just excited to go to Boston.

End of FastScripts...

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