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Marge Schott Dies At 75

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Marge Schott Dies At 75


Former Reds Majority Owner Gave Tri-Staters Plenty To Talk About



CINCINNATI -- Marge Schott, who owned the Cincinnati Reds when they won the 1990 World Series and remained a minority owner of the team, died Tuesday at Christ Hospital.


She was 75 years old.


Born Aug. 18, 1928, Schott did not become active in the Cincinnati business community until her husband, Charles, died in 1968. Charles Schott left her a vast business empire. Two years later, Schott became the first woman ever awarded a major metropolitan area General Motors dealership.


Schott's involvement with the Cincinnati Reds began in 1981, when she be came a limited partner in the team's ownership group. On Dec. 21, 1984, Schott became general partner of the ownership group and became president and CEO of the team seven months later.


When Schott took over, the Reds had just spent more than three years as doormats of the National League. The team was not winning, and worse, not drawing fans to the stadium.


That all changed after Schott assumed control. While quickly becoming known as one of Major League Baseball's most flamboyant owners, Schott was deemed a local legend for her enthusiasm and flare.


Schott would often be seen on the field before games with her St. Bernard dog, Schottzie. She would invite players and fans to pet her sidekick dog and would even rub dog hair on people for good luck.


Fans also were quick to like Schott for making their enjoyment of games her top priority. She wanted to make games affordable for families by keeping ticket and concession costs low.


One of her early moves after taking control of the Reds was bringing back its most famous player. Pete Rose returned to the team when Schott hired him as a player-manager. Rose needed only a year to break Ty Cobb's all-time hits record in September 1985.


Schott also presided over the Reds' World Series Championship season in 1990. Led by manager Lou Pinella, the Reds swept the Oakland Athletics in four games, capping an improbable wire-to-wire season.


The remainder of the 1990s became quite tumultuous for Schott and the Reds.


While still basking in the glow of the World Series win, it was revealed that Schott would not pay for a flight home for injured outfielder Eric Davis, who lacerated a kidney diving for a fly ball during one of the games in Oakland.


Throughout the rest of her tenure with the Reds, Schott's penchant for keeping costs low became equated with being overly frugal, or downright cheap.


Schott refused to spend money on scouting, which subsequently caused the Reds' minor-league development system to fall into ruin.


She also was partially blamed for not doing anything to recognize her team's history by retiring uniform numbers, or posting banners commemorating past championships.


Schott's real downfall in baseball began when accusations of racism surfaced. In 1991, Schott was sued by team controller Tim Sabo, claiming he was fired because he opposed a team policy of not hiring blacks, and for testifying against her in a separate lawsuit filed by Schott's limited partners.


During a deposition in 1992, a witness and former employee testified that Schott referred to former players Dave Parker and Davis, both black, as her "million-dollar (expletives)."


Testimony also revealed that Schott kept a Nazi swastika arm band at her home and that she often made racially insensitive remarks. Other racist comments forced baseball to suspend Schott for one year in 1993.


Three years later, more anti-racial comments made during media interviews eventually led to Schott's permanent exile from baseball. During an ESPN interview in May 1996, Schott praised German dictator Adolf Hitler saying, "Everybody knows he was good at the beginning, but he just went too far."


In an interview published by Sports Illustrated nine days later, Schott ripped Asian-Americans for achieving too much.


After a brief showdown with baseball's hierarchy, Schott agreed to give up day-to-day operations of the Reds on June 12, 1996. She would never return to the game with control of her team.


After some legal wranglings, Schott finally sold her general partner's shares to three limited partners, led by current owner Carl Lindner, for $67 million in April 1999.


Despite being defrocked as majority owner, Schott continued to maintain her limited partner shares. She would often be seen seated in her box seats behind the Reds dugout or in her private skybox.


Even after her departure from team leadership, Schott also continued her tradition of being the ceremonial marshall who kicks off the annual Findlay Market Parade on Reds' Opening Day.


Besides being known in baseball and business circles, Schott also was involved in several local philanthropy efforts. She was a frequent and major donor to the Cincinnati Zoo and The Children's Hospital. She was inducted into the Ohio Women's Hall of Fame in 1985.


Schott always loved being around children, although not able to have any of her own. She was usually approachable for autographs and pictures.


Schott was always loyal to Rose, particularly in the last couple of years when the troubled all-time hit king lobbied for reinstatement into Major League Baseball.

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