Published: Sunday, July 20, 1997
Page: 1D
By: Tom Archdeacon
Tom Archdeacon

Sherrie Myers
EVANSTON, Ill. - The afternoon chat with the woman who is to be the redheaded revivalist of downtown Dayton was almost over when she hesitated a second, then offered a shrug and a smile:

"I wasn't going to show you this, but now I figure why not? It'll give you an idea of how I operate."

With that, Sherrie Myers got up from the desk in the small, upstairs office of her 1930s Tudor-style home. She walked over to what was once a linen closet in this converted bedroom and opened the door on cramped quarters that now held nothing but a chair, lap-sized table, phone and baseball directory.

She said her husband, Tom Dickson, was used to working at Leo Burnett Advertising - the prominent Chicago-based firm where he had been senior vice president - and when he joined her in this home office, he couldn't concentrate: "He said he couldn't think with my phone conversation going on next to his. I told him, `No problem.' I put a phone in here, and when he's around, this is where I work."

And from this - the smallest of closets - comes Dayton's grand dream for minor-league baseball and hopefully a resurrection of its depleted downtown.

If, as expected, monies are raised, deadlines met and major-league approval granted, Myers will be the owner of the Dayton team that is scheduled to begin play in 1999 at a new $20million facility in downtown Dayton, just east of Patterson Boulevard between Monument and First streets.

Myers plans to meet with Marge Schott on Monday and talk to proposed Dayton investors Tuesday.

In the middle of a whirlwind work session a couple of days ago - as she was finalizing plans to buy the Rockford Cubbies, the franchise she and her husband would move to Dayton - Myers took a few hours to talk about herself and her dream.

Meanwhile, her husband and their 4-year-old son Drew were in Lansing, Mich., where the husband and wife are majority owners of the Lansing Lugnuts, the second-year ballclub that is THE success story of minor-league baseball.

In accordance with the rules of the Midwest League - of which Lansing and Dayton will be members - Dickson can't own both clubs. So Dayton will be his wife's domain. But if you think this is a "name-only" deal, you don't know Sherrie Myers.

In a few hours with her, you can tell she takes a back seat to no one. She is outgoing and aggressive and has a street-smart savvy when it comes to marketing.

She has made her mark, first as a Chicago Tribune national advertising representative and later as a publishing and sales consultant who helped launch a trio of national magazines.

"The drive and aggressiveness probably does have something to do with my red hair," Myers said. "There aren't many redheads, and especially when you're young, you are singled out and made to feel odd." She told of nicknames and even remembered a couple lines of a profane childhood ditty kids used about her red hair and freckles. "You learn to stand up for yourself."

Turning the tables - making a problem into a plus - seems to be a Myers' trait.

Her parents - who married at 16 and never finished high school - have worked their entire lives to provide for her brother and her. Sherrie won a partial scholarship to the University of Missouri, where she studied journalism.

When the money ran out, she and Dickson, who ended up her boyfriend at Missouri, planned and marketed a campus calendar. Dickson, more the big-picture dreamer, provided the photographs. Myers not only sold the ads but made the calendar relevant to "students." She visited all the local bars, found out when their "Ladies Nights" were and printed the information on the calendar. She and Dickson ended up making $5,000 on the venture.

When the driven career woman - then in her mid-30s - unexpectedly became pregnant with Drew, she kept it secret from a pair of business partners with whom she was launching a New York magazine. And when her son was born 6 1/2 weeks premature - while she was in the midst of a crucial project - she forced herself back to work 72 hours after delivery.

Eighteen months later, when those same business partners - friends for eight years - allowed her to be squeezed out by the firm that had bought their magazine project, she turned the tears into determination and pushed herself into other startup ventures. As for the magazine and those so-called friends?

"We sued and won." And the magazine? "It went under."

Now that she is a working mother - running much of the day-to-day operations of the Lugnuts, launching the Dayton venture, living part-time in Evanston and the rest at the family's lakeside cottage outside Lansing and raising Drew with the help of a nanny - she's learned to make the ballpark child-compatible with a baby-sitting service for employees and a playground beyond the outfield fence.

As for "the motherhood thing," as she calls it, Myers said she's "growing into it." She is quick to point out, though, that she's not the typical mom: "I can boil water, but I don't cook. I don't grocery-shop either. But Drew and I are building our bonds other ways.

"He's so high-energy and I asked our pediatrician about it. He's kind of a Southern gentleman, and he said to me, `Ever hear the saying about if you plant tulips - you get tulips?''

Against that backdrop, you wonder what kind of bloom might show up on Dayton baseball. What kind of owner will Sherrie Myers be?

Don't expect a mirror image of Marge Schott, although she does have a dog - an Airedale terrier named Nellie - and she knows a little canine courtesy goes a long way in getting Schott support. The first time the two women met, in April, Myers brought a dog bone for Schotzzie II.

Myers does need the support of the Reds, who would have to grant a territorial waiver to allow baseball in Dayton. Although Major League Baseball decided that in light of Schott's suspension, interim boss John Allen would be the one to sign off on the issue, Schott has shown interest in becoming one of the minority partners in Dayton. That is why Myers and the Reds owner will meet Monday,

Tom Dickson and Sherrie Myers look at an artist's rendering of the proposed downtown baseball stadium.
When the subject turns to Schott, Myers waves her banner:

"The first time we met, we went to dinner and she brought this big bag along. She never said anything about it, but while we ate, she was interrupted seven or eight times by children who wanted her autograph. With each one, she looked them in the face and asked them their names, how they got along in school and with their family. Then she'd reach in the bag and give them a gift. Maybe a ball or some Reds token.

"I took a lot away from that meeting. I realized I wasn't doing enough with our fans. Now every place I go, I carry three baseballs in a fanny pack."

The kinship Myers felt with Schott has something to do with the reception she has received, at times, from a baseball fraternity she calls "the most chauvinistic thing I've ever been around."

Myers has seen it with reporters who ignore her and want to talk about Lugnuts baseball only with her husband. She has seen it in some of her dealings in Dayton. Though she won't mention names, it was obvious that had happened at a Dayton City Commission meeting when at least one commissioner talked only to her husband and dismissed her simply as Mrs. Dickson.

Minor agitations aside, Myers is sold on Dayton and the prospects here. She knew the area from before when she called on Iams, Reynolds and Reynolds and Mead Data during her advertising days. And three years ago, her husband visited Dayton regularly as he tried to decide whether he would launch his baseball venture in Lansing or Montgomery County.

Just as there were some non-believers in Lansing's baseball success, she knows there will be some in Dayton, too. A week ago, a sportscaster from a Dayton television station insisted to her the downtown idea was foolish and that baseball belonged in the suburbs.

"We wouldn't be interested if it was in the suburbs," she said. "I truly believe that life is too short not to be in something that really has meaning. I believe downtowns serve a purpose. People need to come there to understand their heritage and feel their roots. I think a ballpark can help do that. And that way, when you're gone you know you've done something that will last. You've left something behind for parents and grandparents to take their kids and grandkids to. It might not seem that big, but out of the smallest of things much greater things can grow."

Kind of like sitting in a small closet and putting together a town's grandest dreams.

* CONTACT Tom Archdeacon at 225-2156 or e-mail him at

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