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Tony La Russa

ST. LOUIS - Tony La Russa loves animals, all kinds. It shows. On his desk at Busch Stadium is a black statue of a dog holding a baseball in its mouth, standing more than a foot high.

The St. Louis Cardinals manager founded a shelter for abandoned and homeless pets. He's also a vegetarian because of his ethical beliefs.

La Russa took note recently when the NBA switched to a new ball, going from leather to a synthetic material.

"I'm not sure why they did it," he said this week. "I'm sure it wasn't because of the animals."

But what about big league baseballs? They've been made from cowhide since 1974; before that, they were horsehide.

"They're not killing the cows to make balls or to make gloves," La Russa said. "The hides are byproducts.

"I would prefer that they not kill the animals for food. That's where I stand," he said. "I don't go beyond that first argument."

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