La Russa rejects idea fan pushed him to use pinch runner

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO – White Sox manager Tony La Russa got a kick out of the idea that a screaming spectator convinced him to insert a pinch-runner during a winning rally this week.

The Hall of Fame skipper, the second-winningest manager in big league history, insisted Tuesday he had no idea a fan near the dugout was yelling for him to send Adam Engel to run for Eloy Jimenez the previous night against Houston.

Jimenez had just hit a tying, two-run double during a four-run eighth inning that propelled Chicago to a 4-2 victory.

“Make his day, tell him I heard him,” La Russa said, smiling.

La Russa said he and his staff were trying to decide: Do they keep Jimenez in for a potential at-bat later with the game tied in the eighth? Or do they have Engel run for him?

In a video posted on Twitter, a fan named Noah Weinstein can be seen screaming “Hey Tony! Hey Tony! Get Engel in there” from a spot near the front row on the home plate side of the third base dugout as Jose Abreu stepped into the box. While that was going on, La Russa motioned toward plate umpire Chris Conroy to call time and took a few steps onto the field.

Engel came in to run. The White Sox loaded the bases before Yoan Moncada lined a two-run single.

Weinstein, a self-described “diehard fan” who was at the game with his son, told WSCR-AM he walked down the aisle from his seat in about the 10th row after Jimenez’s double. He said he wasn’t sure La Russa heard him. But he thought he might have convinced the manager to have Engel run.

“He never looked at me. But something obviously happened, and he, as you saw, just sprung into action,” Weinstein said.

La Russa has been a lightning rod for White Sox fans since he was hired for a second stint in Chicago prior to last season. The White Sox won the AL Central in 2021 but have been one of baseball’s biggest disappointments this year. Chicago was 60-56 and trailed first-place Cleveland by two games following Monday’s win.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.