Marge Schott was the president and CEO of the Cincinnati Reds from 1984 to 1999, with a brief MLB-mandated hiatus from '96 to '98. Under her tenure, the Reds won the World Championship in 1990, defeating the heavily favored Oakland Athletics. Although opinions of Schott are mixed within Cincinnati, she is remembered across the US for making racist and homophobic comments. She died in 2004, at the age of 75, in Cincinnati.
Marge was born in Cincinnati in 1928. She married Charles Schott, a member of a wealthy Cincinnati family, in 1952, and inherited his assets after he passed away of a heart attack in 1968. She was a lifetime Reds fan, and in 1981 purchased her first stake in the Reds. In 1984 she bought controlling interest in the team for $11 million, making her the first woman to purchase a major-league baseball team.
The death of umpire John McSherry in '96 has been called the beginning of the "downfall" of Marge Schott, when her "cranky old woman" persona began to trump her intense loyalty to the Reds and the city of Cincinnati. The event certainly represents an epic story in Reds history in any case. McSherry was scheduled to see a doctor about an irregular heartbeat on April 1, but postponed the appointment in order to call the Reds' opener against the now-defunct Montreal Expos. Seven pitches into the game he collapsed on the field, and was pronounced dead at University Hospital later that day. Needless to say, the game was postponed...but Schott, who was already peeved about snow in Cincinnati earlier that day, expressed displeasure about having to reschedule. She then regifted a bouquet of flowers from a local TV station to McSherry's funeral home, earning the eternal ire of major-league umps everywhere (flowers to the crew working the Reds' next homestand, independently purchased this time, were returned).
Barely a month later, Schott was quoted as saying that Adolf Hitler "was good in the beginning, but went too far." Take it for what it's worth, but Major League Baseball took the comment very seriously and banned Schott from day-to-day operations with the Reds through 1998. In April of 1999, facing another MLB suspension and a potential ousting by her fellow partners, she sold her controlling interest to local businessman Carl Lindner for $67 million. She remained a minority partner with the Reds until her death.
McSherry's death wasn't the first time Schott had been caught behaving without sensitivity. Some other notable moments in Schott history:
1992: Cal Levy claims he heard Schott call outfielders Eric Davis and Dave Parker "million-dollar niggers."
1993: Levy alleges, and Schott confirms, that she owns a Nazi swastika armband. The quote this time: "sneaky goddamn Jews are all alike." Schott says in response that she "didn't mean to offend anyone."
1994: Schott doesn't want the Reds wearing earrings because "only fruits wear earrings." Greg Vaughn makes history as the first Red to play with facial hair, after discussing the unspoken rule with Schott.
1995: Schott tells manager Davey Johnson he's gone at the end of the season no matter how well the Reds perform. The Reds are swept by the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS...it was their last playoff appearance, and they have had only one season over .500 since.