Tony La Russa's first run as the Chicago White Sox manager ended on June 19, 1986, when he was fired by Ken Harrelson, a Hall of Fame broadcaster and a bumpkin as a short-term general manager.

La Russa was back in an American League dugout in 18 days, taking over as Oakland manager on July 7. Sandy Alderson brought him to the A's for a glorious run.

Terry Steinbach was not promoted out of Class AA Huntsville that summer, even as his hitting totals swelled to 24 home runs, 132 RBI and a .325 average.

He did get a call to Oakland late that season, debuting behind the plate as a replacement for Mickey Tettleton on Sept. 12.

And for the next nine seasons, Steinbach was La Russa's catcher. The A's went to three consecutive World Series, from 1988 to 1990, and Steinbach was in three All-Star Games — including as the MVP for AL manager Tom Kelly in 1988.

"One thing that's never changed with Tony," Steinbach said Tuesday. "He's not afraid to go with a young player when he sees the talent.

"Tony was my manager, and there were two former catchers on the staff: Dave Duncan and Rene Lachemann. They put in a lot of work with me, and I put in a lot of work for them.

"I've heard quite a few people say Tony was a tough manager to play for. To me, he was simple to play for.

"He cared about one thing: winning. If you cared about that, too, and worked hard on your game, you weren't going to have a problem with him."

Steinbach paused and said, "Of course, if you cared and worked hard and were batting .150, you were going back to the minors."

La Russa managed his third World Series winner in 2011, when the Cardinals won Games 6 and 7 over Texas in St. Louis. The series ended on Oct. 28 and the Cardinals announced three days later that La Russa, 67, was retiring.

Nine years later, and seven years after being voted into the Hall of Fame, La Russa was announced on Oct. 29, 2020, as the manager for the White Sox.

"White Sox hire La Russa" was typed into a command field Tuesday and this headline appeared: "Tony La Russa's hiring is an inexcusable mistake for White Sox."

That came from the website SB Nation, although it wasn't an isolated opinion when owner Jerry Reinsdorf dictated the hiring of the 76-year-old La Russa.

The White Sox were playing Game No. 114 in La Russa's comeback season on Tuesday night at Target Field. No excuses are required. La Russa's club has had the AL Central locked up since Memorial Day.

The reasons to keep pushing are two-fold: postseason positioning, and that's the La Russa method. I ran into this quote from Dennis Eckersley when he was with La Russa in St. Louis late in Eck's career:

"We were leading 7-1 late in the game and Tony was yelling at someone who had failed to advance a runner. Players said to me, 'What's with this guy?' I told them, 'Find out for yourself …'

"Tony doesn't give up. He's a grinder."

One La Russa friend not surprised he came back to manage this club of high potential is Tom Thibodeau, reigning NBA Coach of the Year for the New York Knicks.

"It didn't shock me, because Tony is an all-time great leader," Thibodeau said. "I had been saying to him, 'You still love it. You should manage again.'

"The idea that Tony had been away from the game too long … that was nonsense. I sat with him when he was president of the Diamondbacks and he was tracking every pitch. He's a student of every ballgame, of every sport."

Thibodeau was on a cellphone from Las Vegas, where he's monitoring the NBA Summer League. Thibs was Reinsdorf's coach with the Bulls in 2011, and he met La Russa when Tony was visiting the owner after his retirement that year.

"I also was able to get to know Bill Belichick through Tony," Thibodeau said. "They both have a philosophy and a system that works. They are the all-time greats in their sports."

There was a five-year stretch when either the Twins (1987, 1991) or the A's (1988-90) went to the World Series out of the AL West. And the A's (96-66) and the Twins (90-72) were 1-2 in 1992.

Kelly was 51 when he quit as Twins manager in 2001 and has not returned. Asked about those days of yore when it was A's-Twins, and Tony-TK, for West supremacy, Kelly said:

"It was quite interesting there for a while. I thought it was very entertaining baseball, for the most part. It shouldn't be the case, but it probably was, that those games seemed to be played at a higher level of emotion.

"It was just good baseball. Watching the White Sox when I can, I see Tony getting a lot of those same things out of another talented team."