1980 U.S. Hockey captain Mike Eruzione addressed the club a few weeks ago.
Eruzione was in Florida on a golf outing and in the course of the conversation over a 2 1/2 hour dinner, La Russa asked if Eruzione could squeeze in a speech to the Cardinals before Thursday's workout. Replete with a DVD of the 1980 "Miracle'' La Russa played before Eruzione entered the clubhouse, the production was a big hit with the players, who asked a number of questions.
"(The U.S. Olympic victory) was the No. 1 sports highlight of our time," La Russa said. "What's better than that?"
Relief ace Ryan Franklin said he could identify with Eruzione's remarks as a member of the underdog U.S. Olympic team that beat Cuba for the baseball gold in Sydney in 2000. Franklin said, "I think the Cubans kind of took us lightly. They beat us earlier in the Olympics and then we went out there and spanked their butts. It was cool, because (Eruzione) said Russia did the same thing with them in 1980."
Eruzione, who never played professionally after scoring the game-winning goal against the Soviets, has made a good living as a motivational speaker. But he said, "I've never done that for a major-league team. I spoke to the hockey team in Vancouver. I've spoken to the women's hockey team.
"I was a little nervous because after all, these are the best players — Albert Pujols, (Matt) Holliday, (Chris) Carpenter, (Adam) Wainwright. (Baseball) was my first love, growing up."
Eruzione's theme Thursday was teamwork.
"It's a long season," Eruzione said. "These guys have a long season. A lot of people expect them to be successful this year. But it just doesn't happen overnight."
Cardinals ace Carpenter, a hockey player through his high school days in New Hampshire, said, "I hope everybody listened because it was a pretty neat message."
La Russa said that Eruzione talked of throwing out the first pitch before a game in the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees American League Championship Series in 2004. "And then he couldn't remember who (the Red Sox) played in the World Series," La Russa said, dryly.