One-on-One with Tony Larussa
This major league manager goes to bat for animals
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Five-time Manager of the Year—winner Tony La Russa has helmed the St. Louis Cardinals since 1996. A former infielder, La Russa places third on Major League Baseball’s roster of all-time managerial wins. Now, he’s part of another winning recipe: a line of all-natural vegetarian salad dressings and marinades, developed by close friends Bill and Catherine Dieterich and dubbed At-the-Plate. A portion of proceeds benefits the Animal Rescue Foundation (tlr-arf.org), a nonprofit that La Russa, 64, cofounded with his wife, Elaine, in 1991. ARF provides adoption, dog training, emergency veterinary assistance, and other services for abandoned animals.
Q When did you go veg?
A Back in 1977, when I was a player-coach, I came back from a road trip, and my wife was watching a PBS documentary on how veal comes to the table. As soon as I walked in the door, she said, “We will never eat veal again.” So that started it. Very soon after, all red meat disappeared from our plates, and then chicken and turkey, and then fish. Within a year to a year and a half, we were totally vegetarian.
Q What led you to start ARF?
A In 1990, I was managing the Oakland A’s, and we played a televised game against the Yankees. A stray cat wandered onto the field and into our dugout—it’s on the footage! After the game was over, animal control came to get the cat. I called my wife to let her know I’d be home soon, and she asked, “What happened to the cat?” I said, “Well, animal control.” She said, “That cat will never make it.” The next morning I called animal control and said, “Look, I’ll come pick up the cat.” They were ready to put it down, they were so overwhelmed. After flaming out at a few nonprofits, we finally found a place for the cat. That was the awakening.
Q An ARF service, People Connect, seeks to cultivate the bond between people and animals. Can you talk more about that?
A ARF is the leader in developing programs where animals rescue people. That’s what ARF is: people rescuing animals, animals rescuing people. Abused kids, teens in trouble, seniors, hospital patients…It’s amazing stuff.
Q Do you have pets of your own?
A We foster a lot of dogs and cats, since we’re part of ARF’s foster system. All our animals are rescue animals.