Thursday, February 11, 1999

Dog for goatee would be fair trade

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Greg Vaughn
        Greg Vaughn needs a plan. If he is to convince Marge Schott to lift her ban on facial hair, he should develop a comprehensive marketing strategy.

        Agent Eric Goldschmidt thinks his client should make his case to Schott directly, but he had better be prepared. Groveling alone is not going to get it done, and logic is largely lost on Marvelous Marge.

        If Vaughn is to preserve his precious goatee, the Cincinnati Reds new slugger must be razor-sharp shrewd and cutting-edge creative.

        He should start by buying a dog. Maybe two.

        For all her rough edges — and Marge could make sandpaper look smooth — she is squeezably soft on St. Bernards and small children. Vaughn should play to his strengths and prey on her weaknesses.

Well worth the $300
        Vaughn is already on record as a dog lover (Rottweilers), but he might want to expand his canine collection. An ad in Wednesday's Enquirer offered 6-week-old St. Bernards for sale at $300 (yes, they've been wormed). Vaughn might consider spending some of his $5.75 million salary on a puppy for the Reds' president.

        “If anything could get to Marge's heartstrings, my puppies would do it,” said Charles Hodges, a Hamilton teacher who breeds St. Bernards with his wife, Lori. “I've got two left. If Marge took one look at them, I think that would clinch the deal.”

        “That might work,” Kitty Morgan said Wednesday. “I don't know if Schottzie (02) would get territorial, but appealing to reasonableness isn't going to go anywhere.”

        Morgan, the resourceful editor of Cincinnati magazine, scored a rare interview with the mostly muzzled Schott after sending Schottzie 02 a chew toy. Schott fancies herself as straightforward — “I'm an obvious person,” she says — but those who bargain best with her tend to take a circuitous route.

        “Always pet the dog,” one seasoned veteran advises rookie reporters on the Reds beat.

        Never underestimate the power of placing a palm on a shaggy pooch.

        “She's not easily persuaded,” Kitty Morgan said. “I would have him (Vaughn) bring his kids to talk to her. She's always professing that she loves kids and that always kind of makes her choke up.”

        It's worth a try. Maybe two tries.

        Schott is notoriously stubborn and famously old-fashioned. She considers close shaves a Reds tradition, though the policy was first imposed by her antagonist, Bob Howsam. She takes the facial hair embargo so seriously that its enforcement is included in the contracts of Reds executives John Allen and Jim Bowden.

        “What I think is going to be tough,” Morgan said, “is that if she drops the ban for Vaughn, that means she drops the ban for everybody, and I don't think that's something she would be ready to do.”

Grievance means grief
        Greg Vaughn's shaving choices are not entirely Schott's call. If he can not convince her to relax the rules, he may file a grievance with the Players Association. Should that fail, Vaughn could simply defy the ban and force a confrontation.

        That's what Jim Kern did when the Reds declined to renegotiate his contract in the summer of 1982. He let his beard grow until Dick Wagner was sufficiently steamed to trade him to the Chicago White Sox.

        Greg Vaughn is neither as difficult nor as hairy as was Kern. He's a model citizen with a carefully groomed goatee. In San Diego, he supplied thousands of tickets for disadvantaged kids, and served as a spokesman for library initiatives and responsible parenting. Because he also hit 50 home runs last season, his concerns can not be ignored.

        The last thing the Reds want is a spring training scene in which Vaughn shows up for work but is not allowed to play. What the Reds most want is a happy Vaughn producing tape-measure home runs to stoke ticket sales.

        Marge Schott should not see this as a power struggle, but as one of her last opportunities to be seen as a benevolent baseball owner. Rather than risk losing a grievance hearing by being archaic and obstinate, she can win friends with flexibility.

        If she can get another dog out of the deal, so much the better.

        Tim Sullivan welcomes your E-mail at