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Tony La Russa and Joe Kelly Have a Crazy Backstory

Kelly helped recover one of La Russa’s valuable keepsakes back in 2018.

Tony La Russa Joe Kelly White Sox
Photo: On Tap Sports Net

On Saturday afternoon, the Chicago White Sox reportedly signed veteran relief pitcher Joe Kelly. Shortly after the signing, it was reported that Tony La Russa was the driving force behind the signing of Kelly. We here at Sox On Tap dove in to find out why.


Kelly, a 10-year veteran of the league, came up in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. So it’s likely they may have crossed paths at one point in St. Louis. However, Kelly didn’t break into the majors until 2012. That was the year that the Hall of Fame Manager had left the scene. So Joe Kelly never actually played under La Russa during his St. Louis days.

Fast forward to the year 2018 when Tony La Russa held a position in the Red Sox front office. Prior to a Thursday night ballgame on August 2nd between the Yankees and the Red Sox, La Russa was asked to catch the first pitch. On his way onto the field, La Russa was stopped by then-Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelly.

Marcus Kwesi O’Mard of NESN detailed the exchange:

“He (La Russa) brought a glove from like 1905, the old pancake with no pocket,” Kelly said. “But then he was like, ‘Seriously, can I borrow one of your gloves?’ So I gave him the glove and he went out and caught the first pitch. I didn’t think about anything because I came back and the glove was in my locker.”

It wasn’t until the next morning when Joe Kelly began playing catch that he had found one of La Russa’s Cardinals World Series rings. The Red Sox reliever took to Twitter to notify La Russa of his discovery.

Joe Kelly tweets at Tony La Russa after finding his World Series ring in his glove.
Photo: MLB.com

A member of the Red Sox staff saw the tweet and alerted La Russa, who had apparently been frantically searching for the ring. Joe Kelly talks about finding the ring in his glove in the interview below.

So there you have it. Joe Kelly returns the ring. A few years down the line, La Russa reaches out to him and helps bridge a deal giving Kelly a chance to add to his own World Series ring collection.

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