Tuesday, April 06, 1999

Marge's last Opening Day as bosslady

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The crowd started gathering mid-morning along the route. The Opening Day parade was to start from Over-the-Rhine at 11 a.m. Monday. My family was in our favorite spot, which I cannot disclose for competitive reasons.

        By about 11:20, we could hear sirens and see some flashing lights.

        “This is Marge's last parade,” a man next to me said. “I'll bet they do something special.” Last Friday, a contingent of her partners announced their intention to buy control of the team from her. Whether this deal goes through or not, Major League Baseball says she has to sell her controlling interest in the Reds by June 30.

        So, this will be the last Opening Day with Margaret Unnewehr Schott even nominally in charge.

        The man looking for a tribute to Marge checked his watch.

        Just then a little boy darted into the middle of Race Street, bobbed in place for a minute, then shouted, “Heeeere it comes.” An impressive array of motorcycle police from Cincinnati and Dayton roared slowly past, leading off the 80th annual Findlay Market Opening Day Parade.

        Then came fire trucks, soldiers carrying flags and a small band playing something martial.

An ache in the throat
        Last year, just behind the color guard and in front of the marching band, wounded Cincinnati Police Officer Kathleen “Katy” Conway waved from the back of a black Camaro convertible. It was the first of those parade moments. You know, when your throat aches unaccountably.

        The reaction is completely involuntary. It just happens. Sometimes a really good marching band can bring it on.

        In 1998, it was the sight of a hero's welcome for this 23-year-old police officer a bare two months after she had been shot four times. Fellow officers saluted as she passed. Some kids held up a sign with her name on it.

        No Katy this year, but Joe Nuxhall got a nice cheer. Then came two camels, followed by singer Kenny Rogers in a 1957 canary yellow Chevy convertible. There was somebody in a dog suit with a seeing eye person, and Cincinnati City Council member Jim Tarbell pushed a vendor's cart in honor of the late Peanut Jim Shelton.

Our businesslike future
        There were 140 entries in the parade this year, lots of politicians, lots of vans from retirement centers, lots of radio personalities, lots of commercials for marinas, cell phones and towing companies. The kids in front of me said they wanted more horses and camels or they wanted lunch.

        They do not have the adult enthusiasm for product awareness.

        The parade was fun, even if it was kind of businesslike.

        As the Budweiser Clydesdales made their way down Fifth Street, Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce president John Williams, on the telephone, watched from the comfort of his office. Also very businesslike.

        That appears to be the future of our Reds. Tidy. Predictable. Profitable. No Marge. No dogs. No loose cannons.

        It looks as though the team will be controlled by Cincinnati financier and chancellor of bananas Carl S. Lindner, Wall Street investor William Reik and Cincinnati businessman George Strike. Cincinnati Enquirer sports columnist Tim Sullivan said, “It is as if P.T. Barnum had been replaced by E.F. Hutton.”

        Although she was down at the staging area at Findlay Market, Mrs. Schott was nowhere to be seen in the parade. This is probably ill-advised, politically incorrect and possibly illegal but I wondered where she was. And how she was feeling.

        It gave me one of those momentary catches in the throat. An involuntary response.

        E-mail Laura Pulfer at lpulfer@enquirer.com or call 768-8393. She can be heard Mondays on WVXU radio, and on NPR's Morning Edition and InterMedia's Northern Kentucky Magazine.

        Laura Pulfer's column appears in the Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. E-mail her at laurapulfer@enquirer.com