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Schott Gives Team Stuffed Gorilla, Bans Elvis

June 4, 1996 GMT

CINCINNATI (AP) _ Marge Schott gave her players a stuffed gorilla and banned Elvis from the broadcast booth Tuesday in a move to salvage the Cincinnati Reds’ season.

At 20-30, the Reds have the worst record in the National League and are off to their worst start in 25 years. Schott summoned the players to her office Tuesday evening for a meeting that lasted less than 15 minutes.

``It was a general talk,″ second baseman Bret Boone said. ``Just, `Let’s get it going.′ ″

In the past, the owner has tried to pull her team out of slumps by presenting good luck charms, rubbing players with dog hair and showing them inspirational tapes.

This time, she gave them a stuffed gorilla named ``Slugger″ in a Reds cap for good luck. She also asked them whether they wanted to let broadcaster Marty Brennaman keep a bust of Elvis in the WLW-AM booth. Brennaman had the bust and other Elvis memorabilia on display as a lighthearted diversion.

The players wanted Elvis gone, said Brennaman, who was told by a team official to remove the bust.

``Elvis is the reason they’re off to their worst start in 25 years,″ Brennaman said. ``That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of.″

``Slugger″ became an immediate hit _ and was almost immediately hit in batting practice.

``Either it’s our good luck charm or our pinata,″ Boone said.

The players sat the gorilla in front of the pitcher’s mound for batting practice. They cheered loudly the first time it was hit by a grounder.

Schott’s summons lightened up the mood in the clubhouse, which had gone flat the last few weeks. Players were joking about dog hair as they got ready to head upstairs.

They walked out of the clubhouse single-file led by pitcher Mark Portugal. In a Sports Illustrated story, Schott is quoted as saying Portugal ``just isn’t worth a damn.″

Infielder Eduardo Perez, called up from the minors on Monday, turned to first baseman Hal Morris and said, ``My first day.″ Morris responded, ``Welcome to Cincinnati.″

``We leave as Reds, we may not come back as Reds,″ shortstop Barry Larkin mused.

Pitcher Lee Smith, acquired last week in a trade, walked out with catcher Joe Oliver and insisted he would not wear a dog-eared baseball cap that Schott tugged on his head when he arrived.

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``Joe, I ain’t putting on that hat anymore,″ Smith said.

The gorilla actually was part of a trade. On Monday, Schott presented manager Ray Knight with a stuffed cow in a red dress with lace. That good luck charm failed, so she exchanged it for the gorilla.

``We will have all kinds of stuff down here in the next week,″ outfielder Eric Davis said.