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  • Writer's pictureMarc Johnson

Tony LaRussa

Knowing When to Quit

The World Series winning manager was on David Letterman’s show last night – he’s earned a victory lap – talking about his unlikely last season in the dugout and his retirement as manager of the Cardinals. As I listened to the interview, I couldn’t help but reflect on the importance of having the self awareness to know when to hang it up.

There is a lot to be said for going out on top. LaRussa has.

Not everyone liked the PETA-defending, pitcher yanking, bibliophile. David Lengel quotes a friend as saying had he known LaRussa would quit after winning the World Series he would have cheered for him all along. Like him or not, the guy is a winner, as in 5,097 times a winner.

But back to knowing when to hang it up. DiMaggio did it right, Mantle didn’t. The great Willie Mays stayed at least a year too long. And knowing when to quit isn’t just confined to baseball. Newt Gingrich is trying to stretch it out for goodness knows what reason. He did many things poorly, but Lyndon Johnson knew when to quit. Theodore Roosevelt didn’t. Guys like Mike Gravel and Harold Stassen hang around to the point where they become a punchline.

Robert Reich, the former Labor Secretary in the Clinton Administration, quit at the top of his game, a decision he explained in a radio interview a while back. Turns out he really did want to spend more time with his family. How many times have we heard that as the all-purpose excuse for a CEO or politician who has to quit rather than wants to quit.

My mother used to say that every plant needs to be re-potted once in a while. LaRussa is proof of that old truism. Already it’s reported that Jerry Reinsdorf wants to talk to him about a front office job with the White Sox.

Knowing when to quit can also open lots of new doors.

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