SEVIERVILLE - The Southern League has announced the induction of Tony LaRussa to the Southern League Hall of Fame. LaRussa will also be joined by Tom Glavine and Gabe Kapler for the 2017 Hall of Fame class. LaRussa saw time at three different Southern League teams throughout his career including time in Knoxville, Birmingham, and Mobile.
The 2017 class is the fourth induction class to the Southern League Hall of Fame, nominees were accepted from the member clubs and voting committee. Upon receipt of the nominees, the 2017 ballot was sent back to the committee and the top three names were selected by the voting panel.
The Hall of Fame Class was chosen by a panel of 20 voters. The Southern League Hall of Fame recognizes individuals for their accomplishments and contributions to the League on the field or as an administrative personnel. This includes, however is not limited to, players, managers, coaches, umpires, League and team executives, owners, and media members.
LaRussa spent time in the Southern League as both a champion player and manager. Drafted by the Athletics, LaRussa's first season in the League came in 1965 with the Birmingham Barons. One season later, and a move to Mobile, he played in 51 games with the SL pennant-winning Athletics. His final year as a player in the circuit came in 1967 with a return to the then-named Birmingham A's, where he was again a part of a Southern League title-winning team.
LaRussa retired from playing in 1977, but one year later he was selected by the White Sox to command their Double-A affiliate in Knoxville. LaRussa managed the Knoxville Sox for the first half of the 1978 campaign that finished with a 72-63 record and Western Division crown where they would defeat Savannah two games to one in the SLCS. In 1979, LaRussa finished the season as Chicago's manager, beginning his stellar 33-year MLB managerial run.
"Tony LaRussa began his career as a player in one of the best organizations in baseball, as the Athletics were building towards a dynasty as they won three straight World Series Championships around that time period." Added Smokies Broadcaster Mick Gillispie. "LaRussa took that same winning spirit, and brought it with him to Knoxville in 1978. He laid the groundwork for the last on field championship for the Smokies franchise, and went on to have an iconic career as a manager in the MLB. It only makes sense that one of the all-time legends is now in the Southern League Hall of Fame."
Alongside LaRussa in the 2017 Southern League Hall of Fame Class stand Tom Glavine and Gabe Kapler. Glavine Started 22 games for the 1986 Greenville Braves while putting together an impressive 11-6 record and 3.41 ERA. Glavine went on to become a ten time MLB All-Star and now claims a spot in Cooperstown.
Gabe Kapler holds the title of MiLB Player of the Year for 1998. Kapler put together one of the best seasons in Southern League history while playing for the Jacksonville Suns. Kapler still holds numerous Southern League records to this day.
The inductees' names will be recognized at the 2017 All-Star Game in Pensacola, Florida, while individual clubs may honor those relevant inductees during the season.