NEW YORK -- Mike Scioscia was surrounded by screaming youngsters once again Wednesday. Only this time, they weren't his Anaheim Angels, they were fifth-graders on a field trip to a botanical garden.
Still on a high 10 days after his team won the World Series, Scioscia was honored with the AL Manager of the Year award and spoke about it as he went on a field trip with his daughter Taylor's class in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
''I'm learning a lot about botany,'' he said.
He learned a lot about winning this year, too, especially following a terrible 2001 and the worst start in team history.
St. Louis manager Tony La Russa had to overcome even more difficulties, and won his record fourth Manager of the Year award, his first in the NL.
La Russa's Cardinals won their division during a season in which the team was traumatized by the deaths of pitcher Darryl Kile and longtime broadcaster Jack Buck.
''Nothing will describe how sad and how deeply affected everyone was with Darryl, Jack,'' La Russa said. ''The personal side was really, really rough. I don't know how anybody would describe it. I think this award is recognition our club, our organization, just didn't give into it.''
In voting conducted before the start of the postseason, Scioscia received 17 first-place votes, 10 seconds and one third for 116 points from a panel of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
In his third season as Anaheim's manager, Scioscia turned around a team that went 75-87 in 2001, finishing 41 games behind Seattle. The Angels overcame a franchise-worst 6-14 start to go 99-63, finishing four games behind Oakland but winning the AL wild card. Anaheim then beat the Yankees and Twins in the playoffs, and the Giants to win the championship.
''I've finally been able to unwind and sit back and enjoy it,'' Scioscia said. ''I think as we move forward in the winter, I'll be able to enjoy it more.''
Like La Russa, Scioscia said the credit should go to the players and the organization.
''I don't think we reinvented the wheel or did anything a lot of clubs don't try to execute,'' Scioscia said. ''They were uncanny at the situation part of the game, particularly moving runners and with runners in scoring position.''
Art Howe, who left Oakland after the season to become manager of the New York Mets, was second in the AL with 74 points, followed by Minnesota's Ron Gardenhire (59), who in his first season as manager led the Twins to the AL Central title and their first playoff berth since 1991.
La Russa, who earned the AL award with Chicago in 1983 and with Oakland in 1988 and 1992, joined Bobby Cox as the only managers to win the award in both leagues. La Russa received 22 first-place votes, six second-place votes and one third for 129 points.
Cox, who led Atlanta to its 11th consecutive division title, was next with 93 points, followed by Montreal's Frank Robinson (23).
La Russa had to maintain focus on a team that went into shock on June 22, when the 33-year-old Kile didn't show up for a game at Wrigley Field and was found dead in his Chicago hotel room. An autopsy determined Kile died from a blockage of the arteries supplying the heart.
Buck had died four days earlier following a lengthy illness.
''The toughest thing I had to wrestle with ... was balancing the personal and professional demands,'' La Russa said. ''We had this personal sadness, you still had the professional responsibility. This was a soul-searching and difficult process. As we got through it, I was impressed with how much collective character and courage on the part of individuals, how far that can take you.''
St. Louis used 14 starting pitchers and went 97-65 to finish 13 games ahead of second-place Houston, then swept defending World Series champion Arizona in the first round of the playoffs before losing to the Giants in the NL championship series.
La Russa has led teams to nine first-place finishes in 24 seasons, winning four division titles during seven seasons with St. Louis. He isn't thinking about leaving the Cardinals, but would have understood if ownership had wanted to make a chance.
''I am 0-for-4 in getting to the World Series,'' he said. ''A lot of times, 0-for-4 and the manager sits you.''
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