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The Cat That Changed Tony La Russa's Life

It was on this day in 1990 that a feral cat ran on the field at the Coliseum and wound up being adopted by manager Tony La Russa. The cat, Evie, led to La Russa and his wife, Elaine, starting the Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF), which has rescued more than 40,000 dogs and cats in the last three decades.

Not every thing that happens on a baseball field has to do with baseball.

There’s a wider world out there.

Take this date in 1990. The Oakland Athletics, the defending World Series champions, were at home in the Oakland Coliseum with more than 30,000 fans on hand for a May 7 series opener against the Yankees.

Midgame, something weird happened. A feral cat ran onto the field. The game stopped. But the cat had a fan in A’s manager Tony La Russa.

“It starts to get a little unreal,” La Russa said 30 years later. “There was a lot of excitement. A feral cat runs onto the field. It prances around, panicking in center field, going back around to the right field bullpen all the way around to third base dugout.”

La Russa and others helped corral the cat, which he would name Evie after team owner Walter A. Haas Jr.’s wife, Evelyn. A day later, La Russa’s wife, Elaine, looked into area shelters that could take in the cat. There was no room at the inn.

But Tony and Elaine La Russa kept Evie. And the following February they opened the Animal Rescue Foundation, which has grown to be a Walnut Creek-based East Bay powerhouse in not only animal rescues but also in spaying and neutering.

“Very early on we had a very small staff, really overworked and making the best out of everything,” La Russa said. “Since then, the staff has grown, but their hearts are the same way.”

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The ARF mission, originally all about rescues, added spaying and neutering to the operation.

In the last three decades, the organization says 42,000 dogs and cats have been rescued and a like number have been spayed or neutered.

La Russa left Oakland to manage in St. Louis and ultimately wound up in the Hall of Fame as the second-winningest manger in Major League Baseball history. For all of that, he’s spent his offseasons with ARF always on his plate.

“Thirty years ago, that cat ran on the field,” A’s Hall of Fame reliever Dennis Eckersley said in a shoutout to ARF on its 30 birthday. “Look what it turned into. Nobody could understand that this would end up like this.”

As for the A’s, they won that May 7 game, and would go on to go 12-0 against the Yankees that season. Oakland wound up with 103 wins in 1990, although the World Series would be something of a bust.


Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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