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."