Tony La Russa goes to bat in Las Vegas for cats and dogs

Updated November 10, 2018 - 3:36 pm

A headline on the news release said Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz would be part of an all-star lineup at the seventh Leaders and Legends fundraiser benefiting fellow Hall of Famer Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation at Aria this weekend.

No, Smoltz did not bat eighth, swapping places with a cuddly Bichon Frise.

Batting pitchers eighth and winning World Series and Manager of the Year awards were among the things for which La Russa was known during his 33 seasons that produced 2,728 managerial wins, the third most in MLB history.

Now he is becoming almost as widely known for finding homes for orphan cats and dogs.

It started with one orphan cat during the 1990 season.

A calico darted through a hole in the Yankees’ bullpen fence at Oakland Coliseum, where stray cats were known to live under the stands and exist on a diet of peanuts and Cracker Jack.

The frightened cat eventually made its way to the A’s dugout and into a nearby bathroom. A’s manager La Russa closed the door and the game continued.

La Russa’s wife, Elaine, watched it all unfold on TV. She told her husband that the cat’s chances for survival after being taken to a city shelter were no better than Dave Stewart’s pitching on short rest.

The next day La Russa drove to the city shelter and did a Rollie Fingers. He saved the calico by taking it to another shelter near his home in Contra Costa County, where it could be put up for adoption. The calico was named Evie, after then A’s owner Evie Haas. It took a lot of calls to the bullpen before Evie the cat finally was adopted.

The experience led the La Russas to create a foundation for cats and dogs who have run out of time.

Founded in 1991, Tony La Russa’s ARF has rescued more than 40,000 cats and dogs and spawned a roster of related programs creating awareness in the mission. These include Pets for Vets, which matches U.S. military veterans with emotional support pets and provides free veteran wellness clinics.

When La Russa speaks about Pets for Vets and the other programs and his foundation in general, the pride and passion comes through like Rickey Henderson with ducks on the pond.

“When we started ARF 27 years ago, we realized that a companion animal has a therapeutic, magical effect on people with needs,” he said ahead of the fundraising gala. “People rescue animals, but animals also rescue people. They have this amazing quality.

“We like to think we’re saving lives on both ends of the leash.”

Big League Weekend in jeopardy

The rush to complete Las Vegas Ballpark in time for 2019 Pacific Coast League opening day might result in one of Las Vegas’ popular sporting attractions being scratched from the lineup.

Big League Weekend, usually featuring the Chicago Cubs against some other team, more than likely will be postponed in 2019.

It almost definitely will return in 2020, according to baseball sources.

With Cashman Field being converted to a full-time soccer pitch for the United Soccer League’s Lights FC and the pitcher’s mound already having been removed, the 51s’ old ballpark is no longer a viable option for baseball.

Anthony redux

The son of former UNLV and Rancho High basketball star Greg Anthony is one of the nation’s top basketball recruits.

Cole Anthony, a 6-foot-2-inch point guard who plays high school ball for Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, is ranked the nation’s No. 3 overall prospect by Rivals.com. He recently cut Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, Pittsburgh, Villanova and Louisville from his list of 12 suitors, leaving North Carolina, Georgetown, Oregon, Miami, Wake Forest and Notre Dame.

In another world or another time, perhaps Cole Anthony might have considered adding to his father’s UNLV legacy.

But not in this world. And not at this time.

0:01

After a blowout loss to the Seahawks last month, Raiders defensive end Bruce Irvin suggested it wasn’t the end of the world: “We lost, but I’ve got a beautiful wife I get to go home to. I’m going to try to make some babies,” Irvin wrote on his Twitter account.

Three days after being cut by the Raiders, his hometown Atlanta Falcons signed him to a one-year deal Wednesday.

Neither terms of the contract nor how Bruce and Mrs. Irvin planned to celebrate were disclosed.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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