Heaven Help Marge Schott: Cincinnati's owner is a Red Menace
The Reds' owner, long ago reduced to a life of loneliness, has further isolated herself by her spiteful words and witless deeds.
In honor of Sports Illustrated's 60th anniversary, SI.com is republishing, in full, 60 of the best stories to ever appear in the magazine. Today's selection is "Heaven Help Marge Schott," by Rick Reilly, which was published in the May 20, 1996 issue.
Alone in her bedroom, alone in a 40-room mansion, alone on a 70-acre estate, Marge Schott finishes off a vodka-and-water (no lime, no lemon), stubs out another Carlton 120, takes to her two aching knees and prays to the Men. To Charlie, the husband who made her life and then ruined it. He taught her never to trust. To Daddy, the unsmiling father who turned her into his only son. He taught her never to be soft. To Dad Schott, the calculating father-in-law, whom she may have loved most of all. He taught her never to let herself be cheated.
"I pray to them every night, honey," she says. "How many owners do that, huh? Hit their knees every night?"
Hard to say. For that matter, how many baseball owners keep in their kitchen drawer plastic bags containing hair from a dog that died five years ago? Or are worth millions but haven't shopped for clothes in nine years? Schott just wears the stuff people send her. "If it fits, honey," she says in her No. 4 sandpaper voice, "I wear it."
Honey is what Schott calls everybody, unless you're baby or sweetheart. It's what she does instead of remembering your name. "This guy is from SportsChannel, honey. He's here doing a big story on me."
"Sports Illustrated, Mrs. Schott."
Schott does not really have to remember anyone's name, because she's 67 years old, as rich as Oman, and she answers to nobody. She owns 43% of the Cincinnati Reds, but she hasn't had time to actually learn the game yet. After all, it has only been 12 years since that Christmas when she "saved the team for Cincinnati," as she has said over the years. (Why ruin the story by mentioning that the previous owners insisted that they never would have sold the Reds to anyone but a Cincinnatian, and there were no offers on the table from any other city. None of the men in Cincinnati were stepping up to buy the team, she says now.)
It is not unusual, for instance, for Schott not to know the names of her players. Oh, she knows a few--Eric Davis, Barry Larkin, Chris Sabo--but the rest are just uniforms that she steers her current St. Bernard, Schottzie 02, around before games, hoping to spy a familiar face.
"Who's that, honey?"
"George Grande, Mrs. Schott."
Grande has been the Reds' TV broadcaster for four years.
Marge sees Sabo. "Hi, honey."
"Hi, Mrs. Schott."
"Tell Schottzie you're going to win for her tonight."
Sabo looks around uncomfortably, then mutters at the ground, "Uh, we're going to win for you tonight ... Schottzie."
In a recent game against the Philadelphia Phillies, there was a hot smash to Reds first baseman Hal Morris, who shouldn't have meant anything toSchott except that he has played on her team since 1990 and was leading the club in hitting at the time. Morris bobbled the ball. "Oh, you stupid guy!" Schott screamed.
Morris recovered and flipped the ball to the pitcher, who covered first.
"Who was that, honey?"
"Who was who?"
"Who ran over?"
Schott is not big on baseball history, either. There is not a single banner commemorating the Big Red Machine years in Riverfront Stadium, not a single retired number on display to honor Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan or Tony Perez. Not a single reminder of Rose's record 4,192 hits. That kind of thing sounds expensive, and Schott is much bigger on saving money than memories. Besides, who can remember all that stuff? During a rain delay in the game against Philadelphia, the Jumbotron was showing highlights of the classic 1970 World Series between the Reds and the Baltimore Orioles, in which Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson was merely Superman.
"Who's that, baby?"
"Brooks Robinson? I thought he was one of the first black players."
"That was Jackie Robinson."
Of course, having Aunt Bee as your team's owner has its advantages. For instance, Schott doesn't raise her ticket prices every season, as a lot of other owners do. You don't do that to family members, which is what Reds fans are to her. Riverfront's most expensive seat is $11.50, cheapest in the majors. Schott still charges only $1 for a hot dog. (A jumbo frank costs three times as much at Shea Stadium in New York.) She does not often meddle in player deals, mostly because she has no real interest in baseball. Night after night she sits alone in her vast luxury box with just her telephone and Schottzie, not paying much attention to the game, waiting for some high-ranking employee to show up at the door and take Schottzie for a walk. Afterward there's always a report.
"Tinkle or poo?" she will ask.
"Just tinkle," the director of marketing or some other front-office-type will answer sheepishly.
In the sixth inning Schott moves down to her box seats behind the Reds' dugout to chain-sign autographs, hardly looking up except after loud cracks of the bat. She hates it when the bats break, but she does not lose money on them. She has an employee take them to the gift shop at a downtown Cincinnati hotel and sell them. (To show their undying love for her, some Cincinnati players smash their cracked bats into two pieces so they're in no condition to be sold.)
After the game Schott drives the 20 minutes to her mansion in suburban Indian Hill, where she is even more alone: no husband, no kids, no grandchildren, no live-in help, precious few friends, a tiny television sitting cold in the kitchen, the newspaper lying unread, books untouched. She doesn't sleep much at night, despite all the Unisom she takes, not to mention the vodkas (Kamchatka, the cheap stuff). She sits in bed making picture frames to match her furniture and falls asleep, only to wake up in half an hour to smoke another cigarette. Finally she rises, fresh from a good night's nicotining, ready to seize the day.
Because she's set apart from the world like that, it's no wonder Schott's political and social views have not really changed since the Edsel. Over the years she has insulted homosexuals ("Only fruits wear earrings"), blacks ("Dave is my million-dollar nigger," she said of Dave Parker, a Reds outfielder from 1984 to '87) and Jews ("He's a beady-eyed Jew," she said of Cincinnati marketing director Cal Levy, according to Unleashed, the exhaustive biography of Schott written by Mike Bass in 1993). As for Adolf Hitler, she takes a compassionate view. "He was O.K. at the beginning," she says. "He rebuilt all the roads, honey. You know that, right? He just went too far." Two weeks ago she repeated that opinion in an interview with ESPN, setting off a storm of protest, including outrage from the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish organizations, and casting baseball in an embarrassing light yet again. Two days later she issued a written apology, which was accepted by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Cincinnati.
Schott is a proud third-generation German-American. Her mother's sister had five sons who fought for Germany in World War II. "She used to send us little Nazi soldier dolls with the swastikas and everything, honey. We used to play with them," says Schott. She even has a Nazi armband she keeps in a bureau drawer in the hallway leading to her living room. She forgot about the armband until a Christmas party in 1987, when Levy happened to find it and asked her about it. "Figures a Jewish guy would find it, huh, honey?" Schott whispers, which she does when a matter under discussion is a little sticky. "What's a Jewish guy looking through my drawers for anyway? Right, honey?" (Levy, who is no longer with the club, says Schott had sent him in search of a dinner bell.)
She says she's not really a Nazi sympathizer, although she once told ABC's Diane Sawyer that the armband "is not a symbol of evil to me." Mostly it's a case of Schott not throwing anything away. If a bag lady had a trust fund, her house might look like Schott's: crammed with junk. There's a room full of stuff she received on two baseball goodwill visits to Japan. There are closets full of mementos and stuffed Saint Bernards and clocks with miniature baseball bats for hands, most of which were given to her. Charlie's suits still hang in his closet, right where he left them, and he has been dead, what, 28 years?
MargeVision is set on the 1950s, and she sees it clear as a bell. She often feels like speaking out for what she believes, and it hasn't hurt her much. While Al Campanis, Jimmy the Greek and Ben Wright lost their jobs for saying one fiftieth of what Schott has said, she got only a one-year suspension from baseball in 1993 for making racial and ethnic slurs. A sensitivity-training course was thrown in for good measure. The course didn't really take. Sending Schott to sensitivity training is like sending a pickpocket to a Rolex convention.
Take a recent night, when Schott was leaving the Montgomery Inn restaurant in suburban Cincinnati after actually tearing up over the all-American vitality and clean-cut looks of a girl who had asked her for an autograph. As Schott was piling into her junk-strewn Riviera, she saw a group of high school-aged Asian-Americans walking down the street, laughing and talking.
"Look at that," she said.
"That's not right, honey."
"Those Asian kids."
(Whisper) "Well, I don't like when they come here, honey, and stay so long and then outdo our kids. That's not right."
If you were her public relations adviser, you would have her followed by six men in flame-retardant suits with a fire hose. In 1989 at Riverfront Stadium, as 60 Minutes cameras rolled on her and Bart Giamatti, who was then the baseball commissioner, Schott saw something she didn't like.
Schott: "Is this a girl batboy or a boy that needs a goddamn haircut?"
Giamatti: "Well, Marge, that's a question you ought to take up with the young person after the game."
Schott: "Is that a boy or a girl?"
Giamatti: "It's a young man with a modern haircut."
Schott: "Well, he'll never be out here again with long hair like that...."
Giamatti: "Marge, you're killing me here!"
Even in trying to say something nice about someone, Schott gets it all wrong. In boasting recently of her meeting with Japanese prime minister Kiichi Miyazawa on one of her baseball goodwill visits, in 1991, she recalled what he had said to her, using a cartoonish Japanese accent: "He says to me, honey, he says, 'No want Cadirrac, no want Rincoln, want Mosh Shott Boo-ick.'"
In the first six weeks of the 1996 season, Schott rewrote the book on loafer-in-mouth disease.
Chapter 1: When umpire John McSherry died of a heart attack after collapsing at home plate on Opening Day at Riverfront, Schott objected to the cancellation of the game and complained about how McSherry's death put her out: "I don't believe it. First it snows, and now this!"
Chapter 2: The next day Schott took flowers somebody else had sent her, ripped off the card, wrote a new one with heartfelt condolences and sent the flowers to the umpires' room at Riverfront.
Chapter 3: At the start of the season the Reds weren't providing fans with scores from other games on the Riverfront scoreboard. "Why do they care about one game when they're watching another?" argued Schott, who had stopped paying her bill for the service (it costs $350 a month) during last season.
Chapter 4: Following the sixth home game, after being raked over the coals by the media for her stinginess, she reversed her scoreboard decision and blamed it on her employees, saying in front of a roomful of reporters, "I've got to have the worst public relations staff in America!" Now those employees have to track the scores by calling to other ballparks and listening to the radio.
Chapter 5: On April 14 she tried to apologize for her McSherry gaffe minutes before the first pitch against the Houston Astros by approaching the umpires working the game--none of whom were at Riverfront on Opening Day and all of whom resented her publicity-minded opportunism. One, Harry Wendelstedt, turned his back on her.
Not that sheer Jell-O-headedness is always behind Schott's troubles. Many of her idiocies are clearly thought out in advance. For years she has made it known that she would prefer that the Reds not hire women of childbearing age. Women in the workplace is not a cause Schott champions, despite the fact that she is one herself. (Besides the Reds, she owns two car dealerships, at least three vehicle-leasing firms, a concrete company and several other businesses in various states, not to mention a large chunk of General Motors stock, most of it under the control of her Cincinnati-based holding company, Schottco.) "I'll tell you something, honey," she says. "Some of the biggest problems in this city come from women wanting to leave the home to work." And: "Why do these girl reporters have to come into the locker room? Why can't they wait outside?" And: "I don't really think baseball is a woman's place, honey. I really don't. I think it should be left to the boys."
She despises the city ordinance that prohibits smoking at Riverfront, the one that keeps her sitting alone in her 20-chair luxury box instead of behind the dugout with the fans, whom she loves. Besides, MargeVision doesn't see cigarettes as being all that bad. "I'll tell you something, honey," she says in her smoker's rasp. "They had a jazz festival here awhile ago, and we walked around, and they were doing nothing but crack!"
Schott detests facial hair, too, and forbids it on any player or employee. The close, comfortable shave, she feels, is her lasting contribution to the game, even though it was a long-standing club policy that Cincinnati players not grow facial hair when she bought the team. "If nothing else, the thing I'm most proud of [about the Reds] is the no-facial hair and earrings," she said recently to Chip Baker, her one-man marketing department (by comparison, the Atlanta Braves' marketing department has 10 employees), even as she looked at a photo of the 1896 Reds, all of them bewhiskered.
"Don't you think, Chip?"
"Did Jesus have a beard, Chip?"
"I think so, Mrs. Schott."
"Oh." Pause. "Have you met our friend from Sports America here, honey?"
"Sports Illustrated, Mrs. Schott."
It is not just baseball Schott is a little behind on. She seems to have been on Neptune for much of the 20th century. Once, she showed up very early for a meeting in a Chicago hotel and then was overheard growling into a pay phone, "Hey, why didn't you tell me there was an hour difference between Cincinnati and Chicago?"
Schott and computers don't see eye to eye, either. At her car dealerships and other local businesses, which she usually visits in the mornings before going to the ballpark, some employees have taped signs to their computers begging her not to turn them off. She does that to save electricity, even though, she admits, it makes a computer "lose all those thingies on the screen."
Schott doesn't read much anymore, either. "I don't like the words so much, honey. I like the pictures. Pictures mean so much more to me than words, honey."
She is always ready with her stack of photos. Here's a shot of Marge as a baby, one of five daughters of Edward Unnewehr, who made a fortune in the lumber business (mostly from plywood and veneer). Five daughters, and all Daddy ever wanted was a boy.
"Well, what'd you have, Ed?" people would ask him.
"A baby," he would snarl.
Daddy was strict. "Very achtung!" as Schott says. When Daddy wanted Mother, he would ring a bell. Daddy did not eat meals with his children until they were over the messy age--about four. And you had better be tough. "You didn't get sick in Daddy's family, honey," Schott says. "We coughed into our pillows."
Since Daddy couldn't have a boy, he treated Marge like one. He called her Butch. She grew up the wisecracking girl Daddy took to work whenever he could, the circle-skirted jokester who would bring cigars to slumber parties and smoke them. She was less comfortable around women than men, whom she was learning to love and hate all at once.
And here's a photo of Butch marrying Charles Schott, son of a wealthy society family in Cincinnati. Here's Daddy, sulking throughout the wedding. "He wanted me to run his business, honey," she says, "and now he was losing me." Here's Marge with Charlie's father, Walter, who took her on the road with him, took her to make the boys in the board meetings laugh at all her one-liners. Once the meeting started, though, she had better stay quiet.
Still Marge learned a lot at the feet of Dad Schott, who in 1938 had become the largest auto dealer in Ohio. Today she knows where every penny goes, how every tax shelter works, how wide every loophole can be made. Schott may come off as having sniffed too much epoxy, but she knows her way around a financial statement and the county courthouse. "I hate lawyers, honey," she often says, "but I keep 'em busy."
The Men ran her life, enriched it and, ultimately, ruined it. According to Unleashed, Charles was a hopeless alcoholic, who left her alone on their wedding night to play cards and left her alone hundreds of nights after that.
Yeah, she learned lots about men. Like when she found out years after the fact that it had been two male members of her family who, shortly after she was married in 1952, had sneaked one of her Saint Bernards out and had it killed because they didn't like it. You don't think that hurt? Men, honey.
Here's one last picture of her with the chubby, grinning Charlie. When he died in 1968 of a heart attack, he was rumored to have been found in the bathtub of his mistress, Lois Kenning. It is a subject Schott does not like to discuss but has not quite figured a way to lie about.
"Where did your husband die, Mrs. Schott?"
"I don't know, honey."
Since then she has waged a one-woman war for fidelity. Her goal is to rid baseball of "cutesy-poos," as she calls them: the groupies who end up in ballplayers' hotel rooms. She says she has hired private investigators to videotape her players getting on and off buses and going in and out of hotels, to make sure there is no cutesy-pooing going on. Reds general manager Jim Bowden confirms only a little of this. "A couple of years ago we videotaped our players getting off a couple of charter flights, just to make sure our rules and regulations were being followed," he says. "At no time were rules being violated."
The last two seasons Reds players have complained that their mail has been opened and taped shut again. "Ray [Knight, the team's rookie manager] thought some of the boxes that came in the mail looked like they'd been opened," says Bowden. "He told Mrs. Schott, and she said she would look into it." Some of the players suspect Schott did the opening. Schott says she doesn't know a thing about it.
Then there are the phone calls. "I tape every call in and out of the clubhouse," Schott boasts. "These players are not going to pull any cutesy-poo stuff on me."
"But isn't that illegal, Mrs. Schott?"
"Oh. Oh, no. Not tape, honey. I just mean I have the operator log every call to the clubhouse. That's all, honey."
Schott is tighter than shrink-wrap, but whatever price she has to pay to protect the Great American Family, she will pay it. This is because she never had children herself. It is her single greatest sorrow. "I just don't think I did my job," she lamented recently in her Riverfront office. "In my day girls were raised to raise kids, and I didn't do it. My life would've been completely different with kids. I wouldn't be here, honey, I can tell you that."
It did not help that her sister Lottie had 10 kids, the way Marge thinks good Catholic girls should. And it was not because Marge didn't try. She hired the best doctors, up to and including one who she says had treated the shah of Iran. "And he about killed me, honey, giving me all these drugs," she says. "About killed me." She says she tried to adopt twins once, "but the nuns wouldn't let us, honey. Wouldn't let us." She whispers: "'They're interbreds,' they told us. 'They'd only be a frustration to you.' I told 'em, 'No, we'll educate 'em,' but they wouldn't let us have 'em." In Unleashed, Bass reported that Charlie's mother attempted to arrange adoptions, but Marge and Charlie refused to follow through because they didn't know the children's backgrounds.
When Charlie died, Marge was only 39. She could have tried for kids again, but all the men who seemed attracted to her were already married. "I never knew so many guys' wives didn't understand them, honey," she cracks. She was going to marry Harold Schott, Charlie's uncle. She says he called her six times one day to tell her he was flying back from Florida to ask for her hand, but he died that same day. "First the family said it was a heart attack," Marge explains. "Then they said he drowned. The best swimmer in the family. Something funny going on there."
And so she was left alone to raise other things: 22 Saint Bernards, a baseball team and even cattle, though she refused to let anybody slaughter the calves. She let them live. She looks out on the calves in the distance from her yard and grabs your elbow and says, "Look at them. Isn't it beautiful seeing the families out in the field?"
Adults, especially ballplayers and newspaper people, she's not so big on, but she is nuts for animals and children. Once a week or so she will get to the ballpark early, gather up 20 or so small kids and let them run out to the rightfield wall and back before a game. Once she went to the opening day of a little league for disabled children and spent most of an hour crying like a baby.
On April 3, Reds second baseman Bret Boone flew to Birmingham to have elbow surgery just hours after his wife, Suzi, gave birth in Cincinnati to their first child, Savannah. Immediately after the operation he flew home to be with her and their hours-old baby. Schott went to the hospital that night to check on them. She took gifts and stayed with Suzi for a couple of hours while Bret, still groggy from his surgery, slept on a couch. "It was weird," says one former marketing employee. "She was great to our families. Absolutely terrific. But she treated us like s---."
Whatever generous spirit there is inside Schott flickers out when she sits behind that owner's desk. "I think she is the single worst person I've ever known," says one longtime Reds employee. "Spiteful, mean-spirited and evil."
Says a former top-level employee, "She's the most cold, calculating person I've ever known. To feel sorry for her is ridiculous."
Schott believes she must be bottom-line tough, like the Men, coughing into her pillow all the way. Drink hard, work hard, feel hard. And this is how you get the dimly lit discount hell that is the Reds today. There is not a drop of sweetness left in the organization, possibly because Schottwatches even the candy. In a stadium storeroom there are boxes and boxes of leftover donations from a Leaf candy promotion tied to the Celebrity Bat Girl and Bat Boy nights at Riverfront. But Schott did not hand it out. She did not give it away to charities. She hoarded it for special occasions. One was last January, when she indicated to her shrinking, pitifully paid front-office staff (Exhibit A: Former public relations assistant Joe Kelley more than doubled his salary by taking a similar job with the city's minor league hockey franchise) that there would be no holiday bonus again by throwing some Leaf candy on each person's desk. How old was it? On the outside of some of the wrappers was an ad for a contest. It said, "Win a trip to the 1991 Grammy Awards!"
Schott has a front-office staff of only 41 people, fewest in the league. Almost every other team has twice as many employees. The New York Mets have 120, the Colorado Rockies 111, the San Diego Padres 104. This does not include scouts, on whom Schott has never been big. "All they do is sit around and watch ball games," she once said. The Reds have 25 scouts. The Los Angeles Dodgers have 57.
Schott is paranoid about being cheated. Reds policy is that she must sign any check over $50, and any purchase over that amount requires three bids before she'll agree to it. "That means even if you're reordering paper clips," says a former publicity employee, "you have to call around and get two more bids, even though you know exactly what you want already."
During the 1994-95 baseball strike Schott stopped having the Reds office bathrooms professionally cleaned, so some employees did the job themselves. She has been known to rummage through the trash barrels to make sure scrap paper is written on both sides. She eliminated free tissues for employees. She keeps the lights off whenever possible, extinguishing them when you leave your office just to walk down the hall. The hallway carpeting is so old and tattered that the seams are held together with duct tape. Schott wants the heat turned down to 55 [degrees] at five o'clock, so some employees have been known to bring in their own space heaters. She does all of this at every place she owns.
No wonder, according to Bass, that male employees of Schott's occasionally ask her to sign a publicity shot for a "niece," then take it into the men's room, place it in the urinal and fire away.
Schott has eliminated the Reds' customer-service and community relations departments. Her private secretary became fed up with Schott and quit last spring, and for a year Schott answered her own calls rather than hire a replacement. The New York Post called last season to request head shots of the Reds' players, and after the playoffs Schott had a member of her staff call the newspaper and ask for them back.
"It's so crazy," she says. "You're spending millions and millions out on the field for these players, honey, and you find yourself arguing about envelopes and paper clips in the office. You try to cut on silly stuff. It's like Disneyland on the field and the real world in here."
"No," says one employee. "It's like Disneyland on the field and Bosnia in here."
Schott does have one of the major leagues' highest player payrolls--"They [Bowden and her other baseball advisers] con me into spending money on the players, honey," she says--though she has cut back this year and plans to make serious cuts next year. But just because she has had to purchase a Rolls-Royce doesn't mean she won't use the drive-thru window. Schott won't pop for video equipment to let players check past performances against certain pitchers and hitters. She won't pop for Cybex machines. She won't even pop for extra hats or sweatshirts. "Anything extra," says outfielder Davis, "we pay for ourselves."
Even when the glory comes, Schott does not seem to be able to pry open her pocketbook. When the Reds won the World Series in 1990, she didn't throw a party for them. Some of the players finally went out and brought back hamburgers.
To Schott, most of the players are just empty uniforms into which she pours money, and it sticks in her craw. One game in April, Cincinnati pitcher Mark Portugal gave up a line drive base hit. Watching from her front-row seat in the stands, Schott shook her head. "Three million dollars," she grumbled, apparently unaware that Portugal is earning $4.33 million this year, "and he's just not worth a damn."
Then there was this exchange during the same home stand in April, as she sat looking at the program in her luxury box, waiting for the coat-and-tied security director to come back from his walk with Schottzie.
"There's what's-his-name, honey."
"The guy I'm paying $3 million a year to sit on his butt."
"Yeah. Three million, sweetheart. For crying out loud."
Rijo, the 1990 World Series MVP, who actually is making $6.15 million this season, hasn't pitched for the Reds since July 18, 1995, because of a serious elbow injury.
"It's kind of a circus atmosphere, but you do your job," says Larkin, the 1995 National League MVP. "The only thing I don't like is when the dog takes a crap at shortstop, because I might have to dive into that s---."
Even though Cincinnati won the 1990 World Series and was the NL Central champion last year, anybody in baseball will tell you privately that the Reds are leaking oil three lanes wide. They routinely lose their best scouts to better-paying clubs. Attendance is down for the second straight year. In the playoffs last year there were more than 12,000 unsold seats for one game at Riverfront and more than 8,000 for another. For some reason, aside from Bowden, who is considered one of the best young executives in the game, top-notch baseball minds aren't inclined to come to work in an office chilled to 55 degrees for substantially less than what other teams are paying, bringing their own tissues to the office and wondering who else is listening to their phone messages.
The Reds don't often bid for high-priced free agents, which is fine with Schott, who prefers to bring in players from her farm teams. But Cincinnati's minor league system is unraveling. Baseball America recently listed the top 100 teenage prospects, and no one in the Reds' organization was listed in the top 50. No problem. One day recently Schott returned from seeing a thrilling trapeze act and had a great idea. "We need to start checking that circus for ballplayers," she reportedly told a member of her staff. "There are some real athletes there."
Another of her ideas is to have a woman playing on her team. "I've got my scouts looking for a great girl," Schott says. "Wouldn't that be something? Her coming in and striking all these boys out, honey?"
Incredibly, the county plans to build new stadiums for both the Reds and the NFL Bengals, and town leaders are petrified about the influenceSchott might have over the new ballpark. Pay toilets? Bugging devices in every showerhead? A dog run in left center? "I just wish she'd get out," says one source high in the Reds' ownership structure. "We all wish she'd get out. She's a despicable person."
Baseball would not miss her, to say the least. She is on none of the owners' committees and has shown no interest in helping to resolve the issues that plague the game. Wouldn't baseball be better off without her? "There is no appropriate answer to that question," says Bud Selig, acting baseball commissioner and owner of the Milwaukee Brewers. But one owner did say that Schott is "truly embarrassing. Worse than embarrassing."
Wait your turn. People want Schott out of more than baseball. General Motors has tried twice over the last eight years to take her Chevrolet dealership from her. The reason, says Chevrolet, is the franchise's poor sales performance. Schott twice hauled Chevrolet before the Ohio Motor Vehicle Dealers Board, which regulates auto manufacturers and dealers throughout the state, and on both occasions she managed to retain her franchise. But there may be questions still. According to documents obtained by SI, a former Reds employee has received ownership notices and a service reminder for a 1996 vehicle he does not own and says he has never seen. In fact, last weekend the car the former employee supposedly bought was on one of Schott's lots. Schott says that if these facts are correct, they are the result of an innocent mix-up, and she denies that her dealership is falsifying records to inflate sales figures in order to meet quotas set by Chevrolet. Chevrolet says it will look into the matter.
So, you've got to ask, why doesn't Schott just take the $30 million profit she stands to make if she cashes in her stake in the Reds, go ahead with her plans to build a new elephant wing for the Cincinnati Zoo ("Elephants never ask you for any raises, honey," she says), sell the car dealerships, the concrete company and the holding company and just find a good canasta game somewhere?
"I don't know, honey," she says, sitting all alone in that luxury box, the lights off, the thick windows keeping her from the cheers and the sun and the joy of the baseball game that is being mimed below. "As long as the little guy out there still thinks I'm doing a good job, that's all that matters. I don't give a damn what the stupid press thinks."
Actually, the little guy may have had it up to here. Schott has fallen drastically in popularity polls in Cincinnati. Last summer a Cincinnati Post-WCPO-TV poll found that approximately 47% of the public had a positive impression of Schott, compared to only 34% for Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown. The most recent poll, though, gave Brown a 49% favorable rating, compared to only 37% for Schott. But she has an explanation: "I think somebody's trying to get me out, honey, somebody that wants to buy the team. It's a kind of vendetta against me, honey. It's kind of like a woman thing." She asks herself all the time, would the Men have given up?
"Nah," she says, "I don't wanna cave, baby. I've been through bad times before. Besides, I'm always best when I'm battling."
Right about then, an employee in a full-length dress and pearls comes back from walking Schottzie.
"Poo or tinkle?"
"Hey, have you met this guy from Sports Thingy?"