Some baseball historians might classify Tony La Russa as quirky, the master of the oddball gimmick. Personally, I'd rate him more as a genius.

In any ordinary season, La Russa was usually two or three jumps ahead of his grizzled rivals.

He was the manager who gave modern Major League Baseball a left-handed third baseman and a left-handed catcher. And he broke a century-plus of tradition when he had National League pitchers batting in the eighth slot rather than dragging along in the bottom of the order.

Tony was a proponent of the quick hook with his pitchers — and he helped develop baseball's devout reliance on ninth-inning relief specialists, also known as closers.

He was innovative and resourceful.

Back with the White Sox, as a young manager, he placed Mike Squires in at catcher in a couple of games, then at third base for 14 games in 1983 and 1984.