SI Vault
Rick Reilly
May 20, 1996
The Reds' owner, long ago reduced to a life of loneliness, has further isolated herself by her spiteful words and witless deeds
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May 20, 1996

Heaven Help Marge Schott

The Reds' owner, long ago reduced to a life of loneliness, has further isolated herself by her spiteful words and witless deeds

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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-lining 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 Schott watches even the candy. In a stadium storeroom there are boxes and boxes o\ 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 haw 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.

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