Marge Schott


Marge Schott
Marge Schott
Born August 18, 1928(1928-08-18)
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.
Died March 2, 2004(2004-03-02) (aged 75)
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.

Margaret Unnewehr Schott (August 18, 1928 – March 2, 2004) was the managing general partner, president and CEO of the National League's Cincinnati Reds franchise from 1984 to 1999. She was the second woman to own a North American major-league team without inheriting it (the first being New York Mets founder Joan Whitney Payson), and the first woman to buy an existing team rather than inheriting it.[1] She is perhaps most well known for her controversial behavior during her tenure as owner of the Reds, which included slurs towards African-Americans, Jews, the Japanese and homosexuals. She was banned from managing the team by the MLB from 1996 through 1998 due to statements in support of German domestic policies of Nazi party leader Adolf Hitler; shortly afterwards, she sold the majority of her share in the team.

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Early life and career

Born in Cincinnati, Schott was the daughter of a Cincinnati native who grew wealthy in the lumber business.[2] To the day she died, she spoke with a working-class Cincinnati accent.

She married Charles Schott, a member of a wealthy Cincinnati family, in 1952, and inherited his automobile dealerships and interests in other industries when he died of a heart attack– in the bathtub of his mistress felica–in 1968.[2]

Owner of the Reds

Schott had been a Reds fan for most of her life; from 1963 onward, she held an auction to raise money for the Cincinnati Children's Hospital, attended by several Reds players. In 1981, Schott bought a minority interest in the Reds as part of a group headed by insurance magnates William[disambiguation needed ] and James Williams[disambiguation needed ]. On December 21, 1984, she purchased controlling interest for a reported $11M, making her managing general partner. In 1985, she was named president and CEO of the club. Five years later, the Reds won the World Series, when they swept the Oakland Athletics.

Schott quickly became one of baseball's most publicly visible owners. The Reds had long been a family-oriented franchise, and fans praised her efforts to keep ticket and concession prices low. For instance, she kept the price of the basic hot dog at a dollar, and kept box seats around $12—the cheapest in baseball.[2] Unlike most owners, she sat in a regular box seat at Riverfront Stadium, and often signed autographs.[2] She loved children (she never had any of her own) and often allowed groups of them on to the field to run to deep center field and back.[2]

Still, she was also criticized for not spending the money it took to build the Reds into contenders. This "cheap" attitude was sometimes conveyed in her own statements. She would publicly comment on occasion about having to pay players while they were on the disabled list, notably José Rijo, of whom she once complained that she was, "paying three million dollars to sit on his butt!"[2]

Controversy

1990s

On November 13, 1992, Charles "Cal" Levy, a former marketing director for the Reds, stated in a deposition for Tim Sabo, a former employee, who was suing the team that he'd heard Schott refer to then-Reds outfielders Eric Davis and Dave Parker as "million-dollar niggers."[3] Sabo, whose position was "team controller," alleged that his 1991 firing was due to testifying against her in another lawsuit brought against Schott by several limited partners and because he opposed the unwritten policy of not hiring blacks. Schott's countersuit alleged that Sabo wrote unauthorized checks to himself and paid health insurance premiums to retired front-office employees. She asked for $25,000 in damages for defamation. Sabo ultimately lost his suit.

Levy, who is Jewish, alleged that Schott kept a Nazi swastika armband at her home and claims he overheard her say "sneaky goddamn Jews are all alike."[3] The next day, Schott issued a statement saying the claims of racism levied against her were overstated and that she did not mean to offend anyone with her statement or her ownership of the armband. Schott explained that the swastika armband had been her late husband's. During his World War II service he had saved a fellow soldier's life. In gratitude for this act the soldier had given him the souvenir Nazi armband as a token of appreciation. Schott kept the armband as a remembrance of her husband's bravery and service.

On November 29, Schott said the "million dollar niggers" comment was made in jest, but then stated that she felt that Adolf Hitler was initially good for Germany and did not understand how the epithet "Jap" could be offensive.

During the same season, a former Oakland Athletics executive assistant, Sharon Jones, is quoted in the New York Times as having overheard Schott state: "I would never hire another nigger. I'd rather have a trained monkey working for me than a nigger," before the start of an owners' conference call.[4]

A four-man committee was convened to investigate Schott. On February 3, 1993, she was fined $250,000 and banned from day-to-day operations of the Reds for the 1993 season. John Allen took over as managing partner. Schott returned to work on November 1.

On May 18, 1994, during a speech before the Ohio County Treasurers Association, Schott commented that she did not want her players to wear earrings because "only fruits wear earrings."[5] She said, "I was raised to believe that men wearing earrings are fruity."[5] Up to 1999, the Reds had a long-standing rule prohibiting players from having facial hair.[2] The rule was rescinded after a discussion between Schott and newly-acquired outfielder Greg Vaughn.

In 1995, Schott famously announced in the middle of the season that manager Davey Johnson would not return, regardless of how well the Reds did. By all accounts, this was because of a personality clash between Johnson and Schott. Most notably, Schott did not approve of Johnson living with his fiancée before they were married later in the year.[6] The Reds won the division (before losing the National League Championship Series to the Atlanta Braves, 4 games to 0), and Johnson was fired anyway. The Reds have had only three winning seasons since then.

Other incidents

Schott was the target of frequent criticism for allegedly allowing her infamous St. Bernards, Schottzie and Schottzie 02, near complete free rein of Riverfront Stadium. This apparently included their defecating on the field.[2]

Schott was known for not wanting to hire scouts, stating that "all they ever do is watch baseball games,"[2] and wanting not to post scores of other games on the Riverfront Stadium scoreboard. Schott said of the scoreboard issue, "Why do [fans] care about one game when they're watching another?" although the root cause was the $350 monthly cost of doing so.[2]

On an airplane, Marge Schott was approached by a woman who introduced herself as Edd Roush's granddaughter. Schott then replied, "That's nice hon, what business is he in?" Roush is a Hall of Fame center fielder who had many of his greatest years with the Reds.[7]

Downfall

Schott's downfall began on April 1, 1996. As Cincinnati is the home of Major League Baseball's oldest professional team, the Reds traditionally played the first game of the season at home. In 1996, they played the Montreal Expos. The weather was cold and blustery and it had snowed earlier in the day.

Shortly after the game started, home plate umpire John McSherry called a time out and motioned towards the Reds dugout, it was later presumed, for medical attention. After taking a few steps, McSherry collapsed and fell to the artificial turf face first. Attempts to resuscitate McSherry failed and he was pronounced dead at University Hospital about an hour later. The other umpires decided to postpone the game until the next day. Video showed Schott visibly upset that the game was to be postponed; reportedly she groused: "Snow this morning and now this. I don't believe it. I feel cheated. This isn't supposed to happen to us, not in Cincinnati. This is our history, our tradition, our team. Nobody feels worse than me."[8]

Schott later insisted that she was standing up for the fans; critics saw her comments as insensitive. Schott reportedly offended major league umpires in general — and members of McSherry's crew specifically — by regifting a bouquet of flowers given to her, adding a sympathy note and sending it on to the funeral home.[2]

During the team's next homestand, Schott attempted to smooth over the feud with the umpires, apologizing to them–despite none of them being in attendance at the game in question, only to have them refuse the gesture.[2]

On May 5, 1996, Schott once again made statements favorable of Adolf Hitler, whom she believed "was good in the beginning, but went too far."[2] In response, Major League Baseball again banned Schott from day-to-day operations through 1998. Later in the month, Schott was quoted in Sports Illustrated as speaking in a "cartoonish Japanese accent" while describing her meeting with the prime minister of Japan.[2] Further, she said that she did not like Asian-American kids "outdoing our kids" in high school.[2]

Schott sells controlling interest of the Reds

On April 20, 1999, Schott agreed to sell her controlling interest in the Reds for $67 million to a group led by Cincinnati businessman Carl Lindner. At the time she was facing a third suspension from Major League Baseball, failing health and an expiring ownership agreement with her limited partners, who planned to oust her. Schott remained as a minority partner.

Death

In 2001, Schott, a long-time smoker, began to develop health problems. She was hospitalized twice for breathing problems and suffered from pneumonia in 2003. On February 9, 2004, Schott was hospitalized. Some reports claim she was hospitalized due to a cold while others said she complained of knee ailments. However, during her stay, she developed breathing problems and had to be put on life support. She died at age 75 in Cincinnati.[9]

In addition to her interest in the Reds, Schott was a major contributor to charitable organizations in Cincinnati, including Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and the Cincinnati Zoo, as well as Saint Ursula Academy in East Walnut Hills. She is recognized for her major donation to the local Dan Beard Council of the Boy Scouts of America that was used to create a lake at Camp Friedlander. The artificial lake was named Lake Marge Unnewehr Schott.

In popular culture

In the HBO TV series Arli$$, an episode entitled "The Changing of the Guard" revolved around baseball team owner Helga Krupp. Krupp was a thinly-veiled Marge Schott reference, from her old age and "battle axe" mannerisms to her free-roaming St. Bernard, racial insensitivities, and efforts to keep ballpark prices low. In the episode, agent Arliss Michaels is forced to spend some time in Krupp's home, and finds a compassionate person buried beneath the rough edges. At the end of the episode, Krupp passes away, and as a parody of Schott's devotion to her dog, Krupp bequeaths the ownership of the baseball team to her St. Bernard.

The Emmy-winning sketch comedy series In Living Color produced a parody skit of the film Driving Miss Daisy entitled "Driving Miss Shott"(sic).

The University of Cincinnati's baseball field is named Marge Schott Stadium in honor of the philanthropist.

Howard Stern Show cast member, and noted voice actor, Billy West's impersonation of Schott, which highlighted her bigoted views and played upon her reputation as a cranky old woman, was a popular recurring bit on the show during the height of the Schott controversy.

Schott sketches were common on another nationally-syndicated radio show, Indianapolis-based Bob and Tom.

Professional wrestler Kevin Nash had referred to WCW during the nWo angle as being "as interesting as hearing Marge Schott reading excerpts from Mein Kampf."

Al Bundy used Marge Schott as an example of the ultimate turnoff to a lesbian on "Married with Children."

The 2007 film Dante's Inferno places her in the Eighth Circle of Hell.

References

External links


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