LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- For the first time in the history of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, three of the greatest managers of a generation -- Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa -- will be inducted on the same day this coming summer.
The three, who accumulated 7,558 regular-season wins, 17 pennants and eight World Series titles, were elected unanimously by the 16-member Expansion Era Committee during a lengthy meeting on Sunday. The announcement by Hall of Fame chairman Jane Forbes Clark was made on Monday morning as the annual Winter Meetings began.
Cox spent 25 of his 29 seasons as a big league manager with the Braves, winning the 1995 World Series and 14 consecutive division titles. Torre, who managed for 29 seasons, won six pennants and four World Series with the Yankees in an eight-year period from 1996-2003. La Russa managed for 33 years, winning it all once with the A's and twice with the Cardinals. They all were notified of their elections at about 8:30 a.m. ET.
"I am thrilled that these great managers during my tenure as Commissioner will join the legends of our game in the halls of Cooperstown," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "In careers of consistent excellence and incredible longevity, Bobby, Tony and Joe all left indelible impacts on our national pastime. For decades, these three individuals not only led great ballclubs, but instilled in their teams a brand of class and professionalism that baseball fans admired. It is fitting that Bobby, Tony and Joe will share our game's highest honor together.
"Joe and Tony have been outstanding members of our staff at Major League Baseball in recent years. On behalf of all of their colleagues with MLB, it is an honor to congratulate them and their families on this milestone. I look forward to a remarkable day for all of baseball next July 27 in Cooperstown."
La Russa, Torre and Cox rank third, fourth and fifth in managerial victories in Major League history, each winning more than 2,000 games. Only Connie Mack (3,731) and John McGraw (2,763) won more games than La Russa (2,728), Cox (2,504) and Torre (2,326).
They will enter the Hall of Fame on the second day of Induction Weekend, to be held July 26-27 in Cooperstown, N.Y.
THEY KNEW HOW TO WIN
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"When I think of these guys, I think of the respect they've had from their players, their fans and their organizations," said Phil Niekro, a Hall of Famer who pitched for both Cox and Torre, was briefly a teammate of La Russa's, and was a member of the election committee. "They are men of integrity and character. I was honored and privileged to play for a couple of these guys.
"We're in Disney World right now. This is a Magical Kingdom. I think we just honored the three kings among the managers. It's a magical day for each and every one of them, and we're so excited about having them in the Hall of Fame."
Cox's election is matched up with the candidacies on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot of two Braves pitchers, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, who pitched together for Cox for a decade and between them spent 28 seasons with Atlanta. Maddux totaled 355 wins and Glavine won 305. Any electees from the BBWAA ballot will be announced in New York on Jan. 8.
"I'm still getting goose bumps," Cox said. "I'm excited to be in Cooperstown in July and get inducted. It's the greatest honor you can have in baseball. I'm going in with great company. I'm just hoping that Glav and Mad Dog can be up there on the stage with me. They were two of the guys who got me there, or helped get me there. That would be the final, finishing touch, going in with those two."
Cox, Torre and La Russa were among 12 people on the Expansion Era ballot, which included another landmark skipper, Billy Martin; players Dave Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Dave Parker, Dan Quisenberry and Ted Simmons; Marvin Miller, the influential executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association; and iconic Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner.
None of the other nine received more than six of the 16 possible votes. Like all Hall of Fame elections, a candidate's name needs to appear on at least 75 percent of the ballots to be elected. On this committee, that was 12 votes. Each member could vote for a maximum of five candidates.
Miller's name had previously been on ballots studied by several permutations of the Veterans Committee, and he missed election by a single vote on the first Expansion Era ballot three years ago. He died last year. Steinbrenner, Martin, Concepcion, Garvey, John and Simmons were also on the previous Expansion Era ballot.
But the selection of the three managers provided an epic highlight. Monday's announcement assured that the 2014 induction weekend will be one of the most widely attended and covered ever.
Torre and Cox had each attended one recent induction each, while La Russa has never been to one.
"You realize you want to offer thanks to the people who made it possible," said La Russa, whose managing career began with the White Sox under owner Jerry Reinsdorf and is now a consultant to Major League Baseball on on-field issues. "You want to thank the family. There have been a lot sacrifices by my wife and daughter. You go to the park early and you stay late. And finally, you realize who is sitting behind you. I can categorically state I don't think I will ever feel comfortable as a member of that club."
"I can't tell you how I'm going to feel," said Torre, who also managed the Mets, Braves, Cardinals and Dodgers and is currently MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations. "All I know, and Tony just said it, when you see who else is there, players who have obviously been inducted before you and come up every year. It's obviously special to them. I've admired these players even though I might have played or managed against some of them. So I don't know how I'm going to feel, but I can tell you it will be a feeling I've never had before."
Cox compiled a 2,504-2,001 (.556) record in his 29 seasons, which included four managing the Blue Jays. His Braves won the 1995 World Series while capturing five National League pennants during his 25 years with Atlanta. Cox led Atlanta to a record 14 straight division titles from 1991-2005.
La Russa had a 2,728-2,365 (.536) record in 33 seasons, winning the World Series with the A's in 1989 and the Cardinals in 2006 and '11. He also guided Oakland to three American League pennants (1988-90) in 10 seasons and the Cards to three NL pennants (2004, '06 and '11) in 16 years. La Russa also spent eight seasons managing the White Sox, taking them to the AL Championship Series in 1983.
Following an 18-year playing career in which he had a .297 batting average and one batting title, Torre posted a 2,326-1,997 record, good for a .538 winning percentage. Torre led the Yankees to Series titles in 1996, '98, '99 and 2000 (in addition to 100-win seasons in 1998 and from 2002-04), and six AL pennants. He spent his first 14 seasons a manager with the Mets, Braves and Cardinals, and finished his career managing the Dodgers in 2010. Torre took his teams in New York and Los Angeles into the playoffs every year from 1996-2009.
The 16-member electorate charged with the review of the Expansion Era ballot consisted of Hall of Famers Rod Carew, Carlton Fisk, Whitey Herzog, Tommy Lasorda, Paul Molitor, Joe Morgan, Niekro, and Frank Robinson; Major League executives Paul Beeston of the Blue Jays, Dave Montgomery of the Phillies, Reinsdorf and Andy MacPhail, formerly of the Twins, Cubs and Orioles. They were joined by historians Steve Hirdt of Elias Sports Bureau, Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle, Jack O'Connell, secretary-treasurer of the BBWAA, and Jim Reeves, recently retired from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
"It's a great day for baseball," said Robinson, MLB's executive vice president of baseball development. "They are three outstanding, quality guys."
"It was amazing in our discussion," Reinsdorf said. "Everyone said you could throw a blanket over them. It was almost like one. They're so similar."
"It's a wonderful, wonderful class," said John Schuerholz, the Braves' club president who was general manager beginning in 1990, when Cox returned to the Atlanta bench for the remainder of his career. "I have a wonderful partner and dear friend elected to the Hall of Fame in Bobby Cox and two friends in Tony and Joe, who are on the instant-replay committee with me, so I've gotten to know them a lot better through that. I'm delighted for all of them."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.