Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Schott's controversies still reverberate in baseball

By Joe Kay
The Associated Press

Marge Schott's spats with baseball and her eccentric treatment of players and managers remained her legacy after she sold control of the Cincinnati Reds, tingeing the reaction to her death.

Schott, who died Tuesday at age 75, was a baseball owner like no other when she ran the team until 1999, the year she sold her controlling shares and ended a stormy 15-year tenure.

Baseball officials, former managers and players reacted to her death by remembering her generosity and her stubbornness.

"I guess I always thought of her as a tragic figure," former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent said. "I think she tried very hard to do the right things for baseball, but she had some enormous limitations and she had some difficulty overcoming them."

Schott fought baseball over a variety of issues during her run as owner, and refused to keep her opinions about minorities and Hitler to herself. She was repeatedly suspended for speaking out and giving the game a black eye.

Baseball's reaction to her death was mixed. She loved fans and kept ticket prices low, but embroiled the game in controversy throughout the 1990s.

"Marge had a true affection for the game, her ballclub and her city," commissioner Bud Selig said. "Marge acquired control of the Cincinnati Reds ... and turned it into a World Series winner in 1990.

"Though not without controversy, she should be applauded for her many humanitarian efforts on behalf of the people of Cincinnati."

She was a contrarian right to the end, suing current owner Carl Lindner to try to get better seats in the club's new ballpark, which opened last year.

"She will be remembered for her love of baseball and for her passion for the Cincinnati Reds," Lindner said in a brief statement.

Schott liked to do things off-the-cuff, but baseball considered her remarks about minorities and Hitler too off-the-wall. She was repeatedly warned to stop making inflammatory comments, but she continued to speak her mind and create controversies.

Jack McKeon was manager when she sold control of the team for $67 million in 1999, shortly before the ownership group's arrangement was about to expire, and saw her generous side.

"She was a charitable person, really had a big heart," said McKeon, who now manages the World Series champion Florida Marlins. "I know people look at her in a different way because of the publicity she got, but if you really knew her, she was a very sincere lady who loved her Cincinnati Reds and loved her dog Schottzie."

The St. Bernard became the team's mascot and a sore point with employees and players. She rubbed dog hair on players and manager Lou Piniella for good luck during their 1990 World Series championship season.

Schott never learned the names of some of her players, but doted on the dog and tried to make it synonymous with the Reds.

"I remember we were getting ready for the team picture and Schottzie ran out and sat down," shortstop Barry Larkin said. "Marge told the photographer" to forget about the team and "get a shot of the dog."

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