Several amazing things happened the night of Feb. 10 during the Cincinnati Reds' press conference to announce their trade for and signing of Ken Griffey Jr. For the first time in the 15 years I've lived here, I heard Carl Lindner's voice. He hesitantly read from hand-written notes and actually came across like the kindly grandfather many Cincinnatians believe him to be.
Secondly, you had to tip your hat to Reds General Manager Jim Bowden, who genuinely was thrilled to announce the deal he'd engineered and pressed Lindner and Reds Chief Operating Officer John Allen to make.
Junior then proceeded to exude a range of positive personal traits — humility, self-deprecating humor, love for his family, respect for the game — that couldn't help but melt even the hardest heart of the most cynical sports fan. There was no doubt, on that night, that Griffey is the real deal, the true American sports hero.
When he said, "It's not about the money," it was difficult not to believe him.
Right about then, the final amazing thing happened. When Junior was answering questions — in the middle of a human hurricane of photographers and reporters, local politicians, team officials, Lindner family members, in a way-too-small and way-too-hot room at Cinergy Field — if you listened hard enough, you could hear a distinctive sound in the background.
It was the sound of tiny cash registers going off in everyone's head. Cha-ching!
If Junior said it wasn't about the money, he was one of the few people in the room who could claim that.
Everyone else behind him at the podium — people who helped bring him to the Reds, people who had nothing to do with it — stood through the press conference sizing up Cincinnati's catch of the day/week/year/decade/century. It was the ultimate game of "What's in it for me?"
The media covering the event were in on the game, too. WLW-AM, which had beaten the drums all week to "bring Junior home," crowed afterwards that they'd helped swing Lindner into make the deal. They played snippets of the press conference around the clock and talked up their Reds schedule— forgetting to mention how their ad rates for Reds broadcasts were about to skyrocket. Cha-ching!
The Cincinnati Enquirer's parent company, Gannett, owns 1/15th of the Reds and therefore stands to gain from every dollar of profit from ticket, concession, stadium advertising and merchandise sales. Cha-ching! Break out those special souvenir sections!
The Cincinnati Post, which traditionally has had the best baseball coverage in town, gets to pry off one nail from its coffin with the Griffey signing. Face it: About the only advantage an afternoon daily paper has these days is printing the West Coast scores.
And that barely scratches the surface. Already, leaders of the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau have opined that Junior's arrival here will bring more businesses, conventions and tourists to town. Maybe he can convince Delta to lower airfares. Maybe he can talk Nordstrom into building a downtown store. Maybe he can come up with a viable plan for Cincinnati's convention center expansion.
Here were the winners and the, well, winners on Feb. 10: