Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Reds remember only the best

Schott loved team - and winning baseball games, they say

By Kevin Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

SARASOTA, Fla. - The news meandered through the Reds' spring training complex, delivered in whispers and received with gasps.

Sean Casey was tying his shoelaces when word of Marge Schott's death Tuesday reached his locker.

"Sometimes she didn't say the right things, but I tell you what, her heart was in the right place," the Reds' first baseman said. "It's definitely a tragic day, a big loss for the city of Cincinnati and this team."

This team that for 15 years was, and still is to some extent, identified by its former owner.

By her quirks. By her controversial public remarks. By her generosity. By her desire to field a winning team. By the St. Bernards and the cigarettes.

"Her love for baseball and being involved and wanting to win was not exceeded by anybody," Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench said. "We've all made our little faux pas at times. It just depends how much you want to focus on that.

"She was the first lady of baseball in Cincinnati who always believed that we should have baseball, and the best of baseball."

Bench and Casey, like other holdovers from Schott's reign as Reds chief executive officer and general partner from 1985-1999, largely sidestepped the ugliness that tarnished Schott's national image and led to two suspensions by Major League Baseball.

They instead focused on Schott's legacy.

"People can say what they want, but until it happens again, the last world championship this ball club won was when she was the owner (1990)," longtime Reds radio broadcaster Marty Brennaman said. "She loved to win. She loved the fan notoriety.

"She basked in the glow of being the owner of the Cincinnati Reds."

Casey first met Schott on Opening Day in 1998 after he was traded from Cleveland.

Former general manager Jim Bowden introduced Casey to Schott and her dog, Schottzie.

"She said: 'Oh, a good Irish boy. We're glad to have you. Welcome aboard. We're looking for great things out of you,' " Casey recalled. "She was the nicest lady. She's always been the nicest lady."

But Schott was a lady with an edge and an unconventional ownership style.

Two stories, among others, came to mind when shortstop Barry Larkin was asked about Schott.

He first remembered how Schott gave Kal Daniels a $25,000 raise in 1989, based on the outcome of a coin flip.

Then there was team picture day when Schottzie the St. Bernard wouldn't cooperate with the cameraman.

"The camera person was trying to get Schottzie's attention," Larkin said. "Ten minutes later ... Schottzie all of the sudden decides to look at the cameraman. Marge instructed the cameraman to take the picture right now. He informed her the team wasn't ready. She said, '(Expletive) the team. Take the picture.' "

Larkin, along with Bench, Brennaman and Casey, believe Schott will be remembered more for her positive aspects.

The charitable endeavors, which included contributions to minority programs. The willingness to spend money on free agents even as the farm system was being stripped.

And the respect she showed those in the organization.

"I think people are appreciated once they're gone, to tell you the truth," Larkin said. "I think people will remember the good things about Marge."

He continued: "She treated us with respect. ... I respected her. ... Her passing is unfortunate."

MARGE SCHOTT: 1928-2004   [Special section]
'A woman of the people'
Daugherty: She was a true original
Insensitivity defined reign over Reds - and ended it
Schott gave millions for kids, pet causes
She paid for a world title, then paid for her mistakes
Pioneering businesswoman stood up to General Motors
Timeline: A lifetime of Marge
Reds remember only the best
Parker, Davis remember Marge for good deeds, not bad words
Schott's controversies still reverberate in baseball
Enquirer editorial: Remembering Schott's generosity