Monday, March 8, 2004

Honor Marge right

Commentary: Return Opening Day to the way she liked it

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Reds say they will honor Marge Schott on Opening Day. That is as it should be.

But if the Reds truly want to honor the former president and chief executive officer, they must do it Marge's Way - the way Marge celebrated Opening Day.

No, that doesn't mean bringing in a slobbering St. Bernard to drop his calling card on home plate.

But here's what the Reds should do.


• Allow a team of Clydesdales from the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade to take a loop around the inside of Great American Ball Park on the warning track before the game.

• Do the same with one of the high school bands that marches in the Findlay Market Parade.

• Borrow an elephant - how about the 10,000-pounder named Princess Schottzie? - from the Cincinnati Zoo, beloved recipient of so many of Schott's dollars over the years.

• Can anyone say $1 hot dogs?

• And, please, no moment of silence. That's certainly not Marge.

Reds fan Patricia Kelso from Dayton brought a makeshift memorial to the departed ex-Reds owner Marge Schott to Sunday's Grapefruit League game at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
Years ago, then-zoo director Ed Maruska balked at Marge's request for an elephant for the Findlay Market Parade. This on the heels of Marge having just made a customarily huge donation so Maruska could have an elephant house built at the zoo. In the presence of several Findlay Market officials seated in her office at Riverfront Stadium - she loved having the marketers over to shoot the breeze about the parade - she telephoned Maruska.

"Listen, you bring that (gosh-darn) elephant down here or I'm gonna take my $3 million and go someplace else!"

The boys in her office cackled for months about that one. Still do, actually.

That was Marge, summarized Jeff Gibbs, one of the parade's organizers.

As with so many things about Opening Day, Schott got her elephant.

For all of Schott's offensive remarks over the years, the one thing she understood was Opening Day.

This doesn't make her a saint, but it does make her a patron - the greatest patron of the most distinctive feature of Cincinnati's signature event: the Findlay Market Parade of Opening Day.

Marge lobbied Auggie Busch in St. Louis for the Clydesdales, called Sparky Anderson to be the grand marshal and got those elephants, Gibbs said.

Marge knew this: Without the parade, Cincinnati's Opening Day is not much different than opening day in any other major league city. With the parade, Cincinnati is the grand host to a unique event celebrated in style.

Since Marge got ushered out the Reds' door in the late 1990s and the Reds' playing surface was changed from AstroTurf to grass, the Reds have been doing less and less for the Findlay Market people, to the point that during last year's christening of Great American Ball Park, the marketers were lucky they got to hand the traditional fruit basket to Reds manager Bob Boone.

Inside the stadium, there were no floats, no Clydesdales, no elephants. There wasn't even a Findlay Market flag flying above the stadium last year.

All so un-Marge like.

"They would just as soon we went away - that's the impression we have," said Gibbs, regarding the Reds.

The Reds seem to have forgotten what makes their Opening Day special. They could change all that by crafting a suitable tribute to Marge this Opening Day.

She knew why Opening Day here is so special, and she did everything she could to allow it to shine.

Opening Day is history, honey, and you've got to keep history going, she once said.

The Reds should heed those words themselves, and provide some flourishes that pay tribute to one of the most colorful characters this franchise has ever known.



MARGE SCHOTT: 1928-2004
Honor Marge right
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