Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa was charged with driving under the influence after he allegedly ran his car into a curb in February, leaving it smoking on the side of a Phoenix-area road, according to court records obtained by ESPN.
According to the Maricopa County Justice Courts website, the arrest occurred in February, but the case was filed on Oct. 28, one day before La Russa’s hiring was announced by the White Sox. There is no attorney listed for La Russa on the website.
White Sox spokesman Scott Reifert said the team was aware of the arrest when the 76-year-old La Russa was hired.
“Because this is an active case, we cannot comment further at this time,” Reifert said Monday night in an email to The Associated Press.
La Russa was working as a special assistant to Angels general manager Billy Eppler when the incident occurred.
The Angels were unaware of what had happened until the story broke on Monday night, a source said. La Russa remained part of the Angels organization until leaving to take the White Sox job two weeks ago.
When reached by ESPN on Monday night, La Russa reportedly said, “I have nothing to say,” and hung up the phone.
La Russa pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in Florida in 2007 after police found him asleep inside his running sport utility vehicle at a traffic light and smelling of alcohol.
“I accept full responsibility for my conduct, and assure everyone that I have learned a very valuable lesson and that this will never occur again,” La Russa said then.
La Russa was hired by Chicago in a surprise move after Rick Renteria was let go in what the team insisted was a mutual decision. La Russa, who is friends with team owner Jerry Reinsdorf, started his managing career with the White Sox during the 1979 season.
The Hall of Famer hasn’t managed a big league club since 2011, when he led St. Louis past Texas in the World Series. He also won championships with Oakland in 1989 and the Cardinals in 2006.
La Russa allegedly ran his car into the curb in the Phoenix area on Feb. 24. A peace officer found La Russa standing next to his SUV, according to the ESPN report, citing an affidavit filed by the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
In the affidavit cited by ESPN, La Russa told the officer, who had detected a “light odor of alcoholic beverage,” that he had been at a dinner with friends from the Angels. La Russa was taken into custody after a field sobriety test. In the affidavit, the peace officer described him as “argumentative.”
La Russa is the oldest manager in the major leagues by five years. Houston’s Dusty Baker is 71.
La Russa is 2,728-2,365 with six pennants over 33 seasons with Chicago, Oakland and St. Louis. He was enshrined in Cooperstown in 2014. Only Hall of Famers Connie Mack (3,731) and John McGraw (2,763) have more victories. La Russa and Sparky Anderson are the only managers to win the World Series in the American League and National League.
Staff writer Jeff Fletcher contributed to this story.