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In Memory of
Margaret Unnewehr Schott
August 18, 1928 - March 2, 2004

Gate of Heaven Cemetery Cincinnati Ohio

Marge Schott, the tough-talking, chain-smoking owner of the Cincinnati Reds who won a World Series but was repeatedly suspended for offensive remarks, died Tuesday, a hospital spokeswoman said. She was 75.

Schott was hospitalized about three weeks ago for breathing difficulties and repeatedly was hospitalized in recent years for lung problems. Christ Hospital would not release a cause of death.

Schott had reportedly been on a ventilator during her treatment in the hospital's intensive care unit.

Schott kept a low profile after she ended years of turmoil by selling her controlling interest in the club in October 1999. She appeared at news conferences when she made donations to the zoo and other local organizations.

She remained a limited partner in the team's ownership group, and sued owner Carl Lindner because she didn't like her seats in the new Great American Ball Park, where the Reds moved in 2003.

The Reds had no immediate comment on her death.

Her outspokenness as owner became her legacy and her downfall.

Schott had inherited and expanded her husband's business empire after he died in 1968. Until she took over the Reds in the mid-1980s, she was known as a car dealer who made campy television commercials featuring her beloved St. Bernards.

Once she got control of the front office, she became one of the most prominent figures in the history of baseball's first professional team.

The Reds won the 1990 World Series, sweeping the Oakland A's while Schott rubbed dog hair on manager Lou Piniella and his players. Two years later, her use of racial slurs created a national controversy that overshadowed the club for nearly a decade. Baseball officials ordered her to watch her comments, but she continued to publicly praise Hitler -- saying he was "good at the beginning" but then "went too far" -- and make disparaging remarks about ethnic groups.

In May 1996, after hours of consultations with baseball officials, Schott released a statement saying she was sorry her remarks offended people.

''This was not my intent at all,'' she said. ''Let me take this opportunity to set the record straight. I do not and have never condoned Adolf Hitler's policies of hatred, militarism and genocide. Hitler was unquestionably one of history's most despicable tyrants.''

With the team's limited owners ready to vote her out as the controlling partner, she sold all but one of her shares to Lindner in 1999 for $67 million.

As she left the spotlight, Schott blamed the other owners for her fate.

''I don't know what I would have done differently, except for stood up and fought with the boys a little more,'' she said, shortly after the sale was complete.

Growing up in Cincinnati, Schott attended a Catholic girls' school and the University of Cincinnati.

She married Charles J. Schott in 1952 at age 21. When her husband died in 1968 at age 41, she was left with a car dealership, real estate and companies that made bricks and concrete.

Schott bought another car dealership, a garbage dump, cattle and race horses as a prelude to buying the Reds in 1984.

>From the moment she bought control, Schott made it clear her tenure would be unconventional. She walked into Riverfront Stadium to announce the sale with her dog Schottzie on a leash. Schott knew little about baseball, but had become its most prominent woman.

She made her first controversial remark at her first news conference, suggesting that women shouldn't be allowed to run a business because they're too emotional. Schott also promised she would stay out of the baseball operations because she didn't know much about it.

Before long, she was involved in every aspect of the team. She moved her office to the stadium, required her personal approval for any purchase of $50 or more, and allowed her dogs to have the run of the place.

She also started making baseball decisions, even though she didn't know the players' names. She settled one contract dispute by flipping a coin.

''I was very much hands-on. I did try and bring some good players in and everything,'' she said.

She allowed player-manager Pete Rose to grab the headlines through 1989, when he accepted a lifetime ban for gambling. Once he left, she became front-and-center.

Lou Piniella arrived as manager and Bob Quinn became the general manager before the 1990 season, which marked a new phase in Schott's ownership. She became the team's most visible figure as it led wire-to-wire and won the World Series.

While the team won, the organization crumbled. She scrimped on the farm system and scouting, eliminated fan promotions and did away with the marketing that made the Reds a regional draw.

In 1992, the turbulence began. She fired Quinn and drove Piniella away, then went through five managers in six years.

With the shrunken farm system no longer producing, the Reds had to bring in free agents to remain competitive. They had the second-biggest payroll in the National League when they made the playoffs in 1995, then slashing payroll and struggled on the field.

They also started struggling at the gate as Schott's offensive language made headlines. Attendance began falling after 1993, when she was suspended the first time for her remarks.

Schott's troubles multiplied in 1996, when she demanded a new ballpark but refused to campaign for the tax increase that provided funding. She expressed disappointment that opening day was postponed because umpire John McSherry died, eliminated out-of-town score updates to save money, and made more disparaging remarks.

The other owners gave her an ultimatum: Step down or accept another suspension. John Allen took over as managing executive in 1996 and has continued to run the team under Lindner.

She spent the last few years living on her suburban Indian Hill estate and donating money to various causes. She never remarried after her husband died.


Margaret Unnewehr Schott (August 18, 1928 – March 2, 2004) was the managing general partner, president and CEO of Major League Baseball's Cincinnati Reds franchise from 1984 to 1999. She was the third woman to own a North American major-league team without inheriting it (the first being New York Mets founder Joan Whitney Payson), and the second 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, and persons of Japanese ancestry. 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.

Early life and career[edit] Schott was born in Cincinnati, one of five daughters of Charlotte and Edward Henry Unnewehr.[2] Her father grew wealthy in the lumber business.[3] She attended parochial schools and graduated from the Sacred Heart Academy.[4] While in college, Marge Schott became a member of Theta Phi Alpha fraternity. 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 1968.[3] A widow at 39, Marge Schott never remarried and had no children of her own.[4]

Cincinnati Reds[edit] 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 and James Williams. On December 21, 1984, she purchased a controlling interest for a reported $11M, making her managing general partner, and becoming the first woman to buy an MLB team.[5] In 1985, she was named president and CEO of the club.[6] 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 one dollar, and kept box seats around $12—the cheapest in baseball.[3] Unlike most owners, she sat in a regular box seat at Riverfront Stadium, and often signed autographs.[3] Despite not having any children of her own, she often allowed groups of children on the field to run to deep center field and back. She was also noted for always having Schottzie, her pet Saint Bernard, with her.[3]

She was also criticized for not spending the money it would have taken 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 World Series hero José Rijo, about whom she once complained of "paying three million dollars to sit on his butt!"[3] Controversies[edit] 1990s[edit] 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."[7] Sabo, whose position was "team controller," alleged that his 1991 firing was due to testifying against Schott 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."[7] 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 a gift from a former employee.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10] 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."[11] She said, "I was raised to believe that men wearing earrings are fruity."[11] Up to 1999, the Reds had a long-standing rule prohibiting players from having facial hair.[3] 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.[12] 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 traditionally played the first game of the season at home. On April 1, 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."[13] 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.[3] 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.[3] Other incidents[edit] Schott was the target of frequent criticism for allegedly allowing her ever-present St. Bernards, Schottzie and Schottzie 02, near complete free rein of Riverfront Stadium, including their defecating on the field.[3]

Schott was known for not wanting to hire scouts, stating that "All they do is sit around and watch ball games,"[3] and wanting not to post scores of other games on the Riverfront Stadium scoreboard (the cost of this service was $350/month). Schott said of the scoreboard issue, "Why do [fans] care about one game when they're watching another?".[3] On an airplane, Marge Schott was allegedly 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.[14] The New York Times later dubbed her "Baseball's Big Red Headache."[4]

Exit from ownership[edit] On May 5, 1996, Schott aroused ire when she made statements favorable of Adolf Hitler, saying he "was good in the beginning, but went too far."[3] MLB 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.[3] Further, she said that she did not like Asian American kids "outdoing our kids" in high school.[3] 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, failing health and an expiring ownership agreement with her limited partners, who planned to oust her. Schott remained as a minority partner.

Philanthropy[edit] 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, where they named an Asian elephant after her, Schottzie, also an elephant preserve, 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 an 18-acre (7.3 ha) lake at Camp Friedlander. The lake was christened Lake Marge Schott.[15] Marge Schott was also a generous contributor to special events at the University of Cincinnati such as the annual Homecoming Parade. Illness and death[edit] In 2001, Schott, a long-time smoker,[16] 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.[17] She died at age 75 at The Christ Hospital, in Cincinnati.[18]

Schott's funeral was held at All Saints Catholic Church in the Cincinnati suburb of Kenwood.[19] She was interred at Gate of Heaven Cemetery wearing her signature red suit with elephant lapel pin.[20]