(In tribute to Dallas Green, who died March 22, 2017, at 82, I am posting here a story I did that was published in the Dec. 31, 2007, farewell edition of The Cincinnati Post.)
When Lou Piniella was chosen to manage the Reds, the ball club called a press conference at Riverfront Stadium on Nov. 3, 1989.
It was unusual for me, sports editor of The Post, to attend. I usually worked from the newsroom. But I went to the stadium that day.
The Reds were a troubled franchise. Pete Rose, who had managed them since 1984, had been banned from baseball. His interim successor, Tommy Helms, had departed bitterly, saying he never would work for club owner Marge Schott again.
Piniella, who had worked for New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, made a strong impression. He spoke convincingly about why the Reds would succeed.
When Piniella finished, I approached Schott. I had been named sports editor in August, a few days before Rose’s banishment, and hadn’t met Schott.
“I’m Mark Tomasik, new sports editor of The Post.”
“Nice to meet you, honey,” Schott said. “I hope you’ll bring some class to The Cincinnati Post.”
From March 1989 to December 1997, I had the privilege of working for The Post, most of that time as its sports editor. It was an era of big personalities and big stories in local sports: Rose, Schott, Piniella, Sam Wyche, Paul Brown, Boomer Esiason, Bob Huggins, Pete Gillen, Rick Pitino and dozens more.
The Post already had a lot of class when I arrived. Our sports section regularly was voted best in Ohio and one of the top 10 in the nation.
The staff talent was deep, diverse. Its best attribute: aggressiveness. Most big breaking-news local sports stories of that era were reported first by The Post.
The newsroom culture was to pursue news hard. So when I came to work at 5:30 the morning of Oct. 18, 1989, and was greeted by a story across Page 1 of the Enquirer headlined, “Dallas Green offered Reds’ manager’s job,” I knew what to expect.
Within minutes, the managing editor was at my door. “We have to have something that matches or advances that story for our Page 1,” he said.
“I don’t have any reporters at this hour,” I replied.
Our Reds reporter was in San Francisco, where that night an earthquake had rocked the Bay Area, led to more than 60 deaths and halted Game 3 of the World Series. I wasn’t going to call at 2:30 a.m. Pacific time and ask him to chase the Green story.
“I’ll take care of it,” I told the managing editor.
The Post had a source list of phone numbers for many of the biggest names in sports. Green, who lived near Philadelphia, was on the list.
Just before 7, with deadline an hour away, I dialed Green’s number. He answered. I identified myself and began to explain the call.
Green responded with a string of profanities, and hung up.
“He’s not talking,” I told the managing editor.
“You’ve got to find a way to get the story,” he said.
I waited 30 minutes.
I dialed again.
“Please don’t hang up,” I pleaded. “I need your help.”
Green paused. I told him what the Enquirer was reporting and asked him to deny or confirm.
“You want to know why I was so upset when you called earlier?” he said.
“My daughter lives in San Francisco. That mean anything to you? We’ve been trying to contact her all night. We haven’t been able to get through. We’re worried sick. When the phone rang, we were hoping it was her.”
My impression of Dallas Green changed that instant.
“I haven’t been offered the Reds’ job,” he said. “Is that what you need?”
Yes. We printed it. Page 1. All editions.
Two weeks later, Piniella was named manager.
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Copyright: Copyright (c) 2007 The Cincinnati Post