CHICAGO – For the record, it will be 35 years and one day since he was in the dugout on the home side for opening day on the south side.
Tony La Russa was across the street at the old Comiskey Park on April 7, 1986 when the White Sox opened that season at home against the Brewers. The late Tom Seaver would make his record 16th Opening Day start in what would be his final season in baseball.
They’d lose 5-3 that day, and a 2-10 start would lead to the manager’s firing later the season.
Now three-and-a-half decades later, after two other stops in Major League Baseball and a nearly ten-year retirement, La Russa returns to that home dugout at Guaranteed Rate Field to lead the 2021 White Sox in their home opener against the Royals.
It’s a reflective moment for La Russa, who remembered his first home opener with the White Sox back in 1980 when discussing the 2021 version. That came after he’d managed the club for a half-season in 1979, taking over for the fired Don Kessinger.
“In ’80, when we started out, the home opener was a tough day to breathe and keep the goose pimples down,” said La Russa. “Like I said, its like winning, Opening Days don’t get old, they just get better and better. The fact that it’s back in Chicago and on the south side, I’m very excited, and mostly want to compete as good as we can so we can give the fans what they came to watch, which is we don’t play the bottom of the ninth.”
The last time La Russa did that with the White Sox was April 19, 1985, when his team beat the Red Sox 8-1 at Comiskey Park. For this era, the team will be looking for their first home opener win in two years as the group lost their first game at Guaranteed Rate Field to the Twins in 2020.
But that came during a 60-game pandemic-shortened season without a fan in the stands, which will change on Thursday. Chicago health regulations will allow the team to have around 10,000 fans in the stands on drizzly, somewhat chilly day on the south side.
They’ll be back for the team’s most anticipated home opener in years as the club is now looking to win the franchise’s first World Series championship since 2005. Their first two series in Anaheim then Seattle produced mixed results, with a a number of big moments but eventually a 3-4 record as the team heads home.
La Russa will be the one leading them on the field for the first time on the south side in 35 years and one day, hoping he can use past success to start what many hope is a bright future for the White Sox.