ST. LOUIS — Tony La Russa and the St. Louis Cardinals are going nuts for the Rally Squirrel.
The team plans to distribute 40,000 rally towels with a squirrel motif for Game 3 of the NL championship series Wednesday night against Milwaukee. In addition, stuffed Rally Squirrels are available for $5 at the Busch Stadium team store, along with "Got Squirrel" T-shirts and additional rally towels.
"I think it's good. The fans are having fun," said La Russa, the Cardinals' buttoned-up manager. "And I really believe that. This is not old-school, and I know I am in many ways, but I think there's so much attention and pressure on the players that sometimes they don't show their happiness."
La Russa is as serious as they come on game day. Yet he's enjoying all the fuss over the Rally Squirrel.
"I've really gotten over getting upset over it. Sometimes I think it's a release. So I think it's fun," he said.
It all started during the division series against Philadelphia when a squirrel, or squirrels, was seen scampering around the field — in both cities.
Twice, with a twinkle in his eye, La Russa has suggested that the squirrel or squirrels was dating utility man Allen Craig's pet tortoise, Torty, and that the squirrel was looking for Torty when it scooted past home plate just as Phillies right-hander Roy Oswalt made a pitch to Skip Schumaker.
"As far as the squirrel and the tortoise is concerned, they had this relationship, so I think it first came out there because Craig wasn't playing, and his boyfriend told him or girlfriend or whatever it was," La Russa said. "And this squirrel was looking for Craig, ran all over, finally found him."
There's also a prolific Torty Twitter feed, accompanied by a photo of a turtle wearing a Cardinals cap on a rock. Craig denies any involvement.
"I have no idea, I swear," Craig said. "Somebody started a Torty account and that's that."
There were no squirrel sightings at Busch Stadium on Tuesday as the Cardinals and Brewers prepared for Game 3.
Cardinals officials said they had nabbed four of the critters in humane cages since the team went on the road — one of them on the walkway in center field beyond the pasture and another near the Brewers' dugout.