PHOENIX – White Sox manager Tony La Russa says he doesn't have a drinking problem. He also says he has to prove that with his behavior.
The 76-year-old La Russa pleaded guilty Monday to a lesser charge to resolve misdemeanor drunken driving charges stemming from his arrest nearly 10 months ago on a freeway in metro Phoenix.
La Russa also pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in Florida in 2007 after police found him asleep inside his running SUV at a stop light and smelling of alcohol. After the 2007 case was resolved, La Russa accepted responsibility and said it would never happen again.
La Russa's Arizona arrest occurred Feb. 24, but the charges were filed Oct. 28 — one day before he was hired to manage the Chicago White Sox. He pleaded guilty to reckless driving in Maricopa County Justice Court and was sentenced to one day of home detention, a fine of nearly $1,400 and 20 hours of community service.
“I know I don't have a drinking problem, just like I know I made a serious mistake in February,” La Russa said on a conference call with reporters, “and where I am right now is to prove that I don't have a drinking problem and to prove it every day off the field that I'm going to handle it and what's painfully clear to me is if I have a drink I will not drive. There's always an alternative.”
Authorities say La Russa, who won a World Series with Oakland and two more with St. Louis, blew out a tire on the grey Lexus he was driving. The Hall of Fame manager smashed into a curb, leaving the vehicle smoking. Tests taken the night of his arrest showed his blood alcohol concentration was .095 — above the legal limit of .08.
La Russa said he feels “deep remorse and regret” about what happened. He underwent 20 hours of alcohol counseling after his arrest, which he described as “very helpful.”
“It's impossible to explain how daily and deeply this gets at you and has bothered me for a long time,” he said. “Obviously I displayed bad judgment that night in February.”