Sunday, June 30, 1996
Recruiting Mr. Right for the Reds

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Now that my idea about Charlie Mechem is officially not harebrained, let's find out whose idea it really was.

The notion that the former chief of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) is the perfect candidate for the two-year job as CEO of the Reds began with a phone call from my Sports Deep Throat. This is a woman who has provided me with important technical sports information for more than 15 years.

What, I might wonder with a blush, is a tight end. Is a birdie better or worse than an eagle? Once I wanted to write that guys who hang around together tend to do business together, I called to ask whether they ever share a golf cart. ''Can two people fit in one golf cart?'' was, I believe, the question that called for her expertise.

Just for our purposes, we'll call her Sally. And to prove that not all the rabid Reds fans live in Western Hills, I will reveal that she was born and reared on the east side of town. That is the last bit of information you'll get from me because she is what is known as a confidential source.

Best resume in America

Besides,the real story here is Charlie Mechem, who has the best resume in America to steer the Reds through the murky waters of public opinion and stadium location and construction. Not to mention that the ball club needs attention.

As soon as it was announced that Marge was out of the game until the end of the 1998 season, Sally called to give me the day's sports tip. Charlie Mechem. ''You should write about him,'' she said. ''It would get people talking.''

So I did. And they did.

A man called to say, ''You omitted the most important thing.'' Well, sir, you should know I do this with some regularity. According to him, ''If baseball forces an outsider onto Cincinnati, that could kill the team and the stadium. Charlie could keep things rolling.''

He certainly ''kept things rolling'' at Great American Broadcasting when he was CEO there. And at Taft Broadcasting before that. He has contributed time and money to Cincinnati's favorite causes, and has racked up a lifetime of respect in high and low places. And friendships.

People just flat like him.

Recently, I was giving a speech to a large group who greeted the idea of Charlie Mechem running the Reds with applause. No one has applauded anything I have to say since I told an audience that I would have to cut my remarks short because my parking meter had expired.

Then, WLW-AM's Andy Furman kept the ball rolling with an on-air interview with Charlie Mechem, who sounded interested in the job. Without exactly saying so.

He already has, it might be noted, a World Series ring that he wears all the time. It's from 1983, when Taft Broadcasting owned the Philadelphia Phillies and he was CEO of Taft. A crony said he was an ''active owner.''

So did he hang around in the locker room? Phone strategy down to the dugout? Rub dog hair on the players?

The owner's role, according to Charlie Mechem, is to provide the ''overall philosophical guidance and image.''

And what might that image be? The LPGA's Nancy Lopez said, ''He has a lot of class.''

Eventually, I heard from Mr. Mechem. (That's what I call him to his face. Behind his back, I call him Super Charlie.) So, I asked, do you want the job?

''It's important to me not to be seen to be asking for the job,'' he said. ''I'm not.''

So, as far as I know, the idea didn't come from him. My Sports Deep Throat swears it ''came right out of my own little head.'' As you know, we journalists will go to jail to protect our sources. We will guard their identity with our very freedom. So, I have only one final thing to say.

If things go right, two years from now Charlie Mechem should make sure to send a couple of World Series tickets to Sally Stuhlreyer Leyman, a Hyde Park stay-at-home mom who has not missed an Opening Day since she was in the fourth grade.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax to 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU-FM (91.7 MHz) and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.