Thehired Tony La Russa in 1996 to manage. And so began a hot-and-cold, love-and-hate relationship with the man. It would be a relationship defined by breakdowns in personal relationships with players and success on the field, a relationship captured in the microcosm of 1996.
A rift developed between two proud and stubborn men when La Russa butted heads with Ozzie Smith, one of the great players and people in the franchise's history. The resentment the manager developed for his mistreatment of Ozzie was tempered somewhat by success on the field. It would be the first such instance of this dynamic but by no means the last. La Russa coached the 1996 incarnation of the club to within one game of the World Series. But the champagne to celebrate that pennant was never popped open and the merchandise to commemorate it never sold for the Braves rallied to win the NLCS and then [lose] the World Series. It was the first of numerous postseason collapses for La Russa-managed Cardinals teams.