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Wendy's ad leaves him in pickle

Published Oct. 7, 2005

Oakland Athletics manager Tony La Russa is a vegetarian. So what's he doing in a Wendy's commercial?

La Russa's cameo appearance in a TV ad for a Wendy's chicken-bacon-cheese sandwich has angered some of his fellow vegetarians. La Russa contends he was misled, but a Wendy's official says La Russa knew what he was doing.

La Russa, who says he is embarrassed about the commercial, is being inundated with calls, letters and faxes from irate fans. "It was stupid on my part. I screwed up," he said.

In the commercial, in which various people try to guess the toppings on the new sandwich, a coach hangs up the bullpen phone, turns to La Russa and says "marinara." La Russa pumps his fist and says, "Yes!"

The clip, in which La Russa is wearing his A's uniform, was filmed in a dugout in New York earlier this season.

The manager, a Tampa native, says he was led to believe the commercial was for vegetarian alternatives at Wendy's. He says he thought the marinara sauce was to be used on baked potatoes.

But Denny Lynch, communications vice president at Wendy's headquarters in Dublin, Ohio, can't understand La Russa's complaint.

"We're confused, big-time confused," Lynch said. "The name of the restaurant chain is Wendy's Old-Fashioned Hamburgers Restaurant. And he knew that it was a chicken sandwich commercial."

La Russa said he may contribute his earnings from the commercial to animal rights groups.