Friday, February 28, 1996
3 Schmuttes can't imagine losing Reds

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Please send Marge Schott a get-well card.

She's sick of ''that stadium thing.''

Well, who isn't?

The long-winded debate over that half-a-penny tax to pay the $544.2 million bill for two new riverfront stadiums is enough to make anyone feel queasy.

I have a cure for Marge.

It's the Schmutte sisters, Edna, Edith and Dolores.

They're going to give her a new stadium.

They're voting ''Yes'' on Issue 1.

The Schmuttes know that if the tax levy fails, the Reds could leave Cincinnati. And, they can't imagine their hometown without the home team.

''Oh, my goodness gracious!'' Edna exclaims, ''we don't even want to think about that.''

''Merciful heavens, no,'' adds Dolores.

''Not at all,'' says Edith.

''It would be like the Yankees pulling out of New York or when the Dodgers left Brooklyn,'' Edna says as she finishes the sisters' thought. ''Cincinnati would not be the same without the Reds.''

The Schmutte sisters are not millionaires. They're retired from solid, middle-class jobs and share a modest home in Bridgetown.

They weren't invited to Marge's love-in at Riverfront Stadium last May. That's when she hosted a team of rich guys in business suits.

She put replicas of old Reds baseball caps on the moneybags' heads, stuffed hot dogs in their mouths and even pinched Carl Lindner's billion-dollar cheeks.

Who could forget that day? The sky was blue. The suits' money was green.

Giddy from the chance to scuff their expensive loafers on Riverfront's AstroTurf, those big spenders said then and there they were going to build Marge a new stadium. With their money. Not our tax dollars.

The Schmuttes weren't there. But they don't feel the least bit snubbed.

They're not even going to hold it against the big-money guys who failed to keep their promise. The sisters are still going to give Marge a new stadium.

''Cincinnati and baseball go hand in hand,'' says Edna. ''Everywhere we go, whether it's Las Vegas, Chicago, Atlanta or St. Louis - I don't care where - when people find out we're from Cincinnati, they always ask about the Reds.

''Usually, they want to know: 'Do you think Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame?' ''

For the record, the sisters do.

Edna, Edith and Dolores are lifelong baseball fans.

''We had a father and brothers who lived, ate and slept baseball morning, noon and night,'' says Edna.

They're also charter members of the Rosie Reds. And proud of it. Edna is only too happy to explain what ''Rosie Reds'' stands for. ''Rooters Organized to Stimulate Interest and Enthusiasm in the Reds.''

The sisters signed up with the Reds rooters in 1964, after rumors circulated that the team might leave Cincinnati.

The Rosies have never gone on strike or held out for more money. They can't. They aren't paid.

While they don't take from the Reds, the Rosies do give something back to baseball. Through raffles and fashion shows, they raise money to award six, $1,500 college scholarships every year to aspiring baseball players.

During their careers as Rosie Reds, the Schmuttes have never missed a spring training. This season is no exception. They're going to be in Plant City, Fla. - ''rooting our hearts out for the Reds,'' Edna declares - on March 19, Election Day for the stadium tax.

''We've already asked for our absentee ballots,'' notes Edna.

''Yes, we have,'' her sisters agree in unison.

They know how they're going to vote.

Make it three ''Yes'' votes for Issue 1.

''Make that four,'' Edna says. ''Our brother, Robert, is voting 'Yes,' too.''

Way to go, Schmuttes. Your votes could go a long way toward putting some color back in Marge's cheeks.

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Available to speak to groups. Tips and comments most welcome. Call 768-8379 or fax to 768-8340.