Marge Schott: Malicious Or Misunderstood? Baseball Seeks The Answer, And The Stakes Are High.

Posted: December 06, 1992

CINCINNATI — Marge Schott says she didn't use those words. Such words are not in her vocabulary. But if she did use them, she did so only as a joke.

Two of her former employees say the Cincinnati Reds owner uses racial slurs and ethnic epithets regularly. A third former employee says Marge Schott deals with the whole world on the basis of stereotypes. But, he says, she is no racist. She just doesn't like anyone.

After two weeks of this, baseball decided it had had enough. It launched an investigation of an owner. A special four-member committee will try to decide just who is the real Marge Schott. If the committee finds that the allegations against her are correct, she could become the first owner in 49 years to be permanently removed from the game.

Baseball's investigation of Schott is likely to begin with an examination of sworn statements by Schott and three former high-ranking Reds employees. In those 349 pages on file at the Hamilton County Courthouse, the committee will find allegations against Schott that have not been public knowledge.

One former employee says that Schott commonly used racial slurs when talking about black players and that she used the word nigger 50 percent of the times she talked about former Reds outfielder Dave Parker.

Another of the former Reds employees says Schott used overtly racist language repeatedly during his daily meetings with her.

Schott's own deposition, bombastic, feisty and sometimes humorous, also contains surprises that the committee will have to contend with. At one point, Schott sounded as if she were saying she had circumvented major-league baseball's directive to hire more minorities by "making up things" and sending them to the commissioner's office.

The depositions were taken as part of a lawsuit filed by former Reds controller Tim Sabo, who has accused Schott of wrongfully firing him. Sabo contends that his advocacy of affirmative-action hiring in the front office was one of the reasons Schott dismissed him.

In a period of three years, Schott hired 30 people to work in the Reds' front office and all of them were white, according to her own testimony.

In Schott's deposition, she says she has rarely used racist language and then only as a joke. "Very seldom do I ever use the word (nigger)," she said. However, in subsequent interviews, she has flatly denied all allegations against her.

Schott declined to be interviewed for this story.

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In her deposition, Schott says major-league baseball is really made up of two worlds: There's real life and there's Disneyland.

Disneyland is what the fans see on the field, and the real world is everything that goes on behind closed doors, in the business of running baseball, according to Schott.

If the allegations of former Reds executives are true, Schott's life also is made up of two worlds, two images: There's the lovable owner of the Reds, Mrs. Schott, who parades around Riverfront Stadium with her dog, Schottzie. And then there's the businesswoman who, they say, runs the Reds as if she were a dictator. They characterize her as prejudiced, penny-pinching, foul-mouthed, mean-spirited and contradictory.

New allegations against Schott can be found in the deposition given by Roger Blaemire, a former vice president of broadcasting and marketing for the Reds, who was the first person Schott hired after taking control of the team.

Blaemire says Schott used the terms "dumb nigger, big nigger, stupid nigger, quite often" during his daily meetings with her. He says she used them primarily in reference to two former Reds - Parker and Eric Davis.

"Parker was our rightfielder at the time," Blaemire said, "and I think he was referred to primarily as 'that dumb nigger' or 'the big nigger.' "

He says Schott called Davis "that troublemaking nigger" because she was angry that Davis wanted to wear red shoes with his uniform instead of the Reds' traditional black shoes.

Blaemire says she wasn't singling out Parker and Davis, though.

"She just didn't like black people," he said. "She - I'd say one thing in Mrs. Schott's defense - she didn't like anybody. She treated everybody like dogs. Actually, if she treated us the way she treated her dogs, we'd all been better off. She had no respect or regard for anyone at any time, regardless of who they were."

Blaemire, who joined the Reds from the NBA's Indiana Pacers, says he once tried to put together a deal with Ticketmaster to help sell Reds tickets, a deal that, he says, would have generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue over time. But Schott, he says, killed the deal because she did not want to deal with Herb and Mel Simon, who owned the Pacers and were part- owners of Ticketmaster.

"She got mad," Blaemire said, "and she said, 'I don't want to be dealing with those guys you worked for, those Jew bastards.' . . . And that's how she referred to Jewish people - either as 'Jew bastards' or 'dirty Jews' - and she didn't want any part of them."

Blaemire says Schott fired him after he had been on the job less than a year - without giving him a reason. He describes her as a penny-pinching owner who refuses to pay for her employees' health insurance, raised the price of Coke in the office soda machine to make more money, and complained that people were using the office refrigerator to store their lunches without her permission.

He says she once fired an elderly man, a man who got around with a walker,

from his job checking media credentials because "he made too much money" - $5 an hour. Schott was not asked about this allegation during her two-day- long deposition.

Cal Levy, who testified that he was fired for no reason after three years as the Reds' marketing director, says Schott used racial slurs in front of him. He says she stereotyped every racial and ethnic group. Once, he says, when a company tried to negotiate a deal to sell chili at Riverfront Stadium, she complained to him about the owner of the company, saying: "Sneaky goddamn Jews are all alike."

When asked in her deposition if she ever had told Levy that "Hitler might have had the right idea," Schott replied: "I really don't know. . . . A lot of times, I make jokes, but they are usually - I wouldn't say it in front of anybody if I wasn't joking."

Levy says Schott was often abrasive, short-tempered and abusive with those who worked for her."

"It's my feeling," he said, "that Mrs. Schott doesn't like anybody."

Donald Breen Jr., who was a Reds vice president from 1986 to 1988, says Schott was not prejudiced.

"She treated everybody nasty," he said. "She is a churlish curmudgeon who refers to everybody in a negative sense from time to time."

Since the allegations against Schott began, many Cincinnatians have defended her - including some of her own players, who said they have never heard her utter racist remarks. She also has received support from the local president of the National Council of Negro Women and from Cincinnati's sister city in Japan.

"There is so much to be worried about in this world - racism, homelessness, kids on the streets - and we're all getting worked up over something some woman who owns a baseball club says?" council president Mamie Dunston-Hall said.

In her deposition, Schott stresses repeatedly that she has no prejudice against anyone.

Sometimes she may not be her own best advocate.

When asked if she ever referred to Martin Luther King's Birthday as ''nigger day," Schott did not deny it, but rather answered: "I hope not."

Schott also said she was only joking when - after a stuffed gorilla was placed in the chair behind her desk - she remarked that she could no longer be accused of discrimination.

Schott went to Catholic school for 12 years - "white gloves, 12 years of French and curtsy," she said - but dropped out of college after less than a year to work in her father's business.

Unable to have children, she said she alternately stayed home and worked on projects and operated as a "sidekick" to her father and her father-in-law when they went on business trips. That, she said, consisted mainly of ''humoring men."

It wasn't until her husband died, in 1968, that she stepped into the business world with both feet, taking over his businesses, which he had inherited from his father.

And she did so reluctantly, she said, because no one else had stepped forward and, well, someone had to run them.

Throughout her deposition, she addressed an attorney as "honey." She lost her temper a couple of times over two days of testimony, once when the attorney asked her if she was "abusive to her employees."

"Oh, come on, listen," she said. "I'll walk out of here, squirt. I've been in business 23 years. I've never had a cheap thing like this, and I've had employees that are my family."

She denied that she preferred to hire women for the office who were past their childbearing years - so she wouldn't lose them to maternity leave - and got angry when attorney Stephen Imm pressed her on the subject.

"I'll tell you one thing, Mister: You better not get on this subject

because I was never blessed with children - son of a bitch," Schott said.

Schott said she ran her Reds with a tight fist. No decisions were made without the proposal first going to the desk of Mrs. Schott - as she calls herself. She did all the hiring and all the firing. When asked who was directly under her on the Reds' organizational chart, she replied: "Nobody."

She said she was at the top and everyone else reported to her.

"I have my hands in every department," she said. "I'm a hands-on type person."

When representatives of Alexander and Associates - a Washington, D.C., company hired by Major League Baseball to promote minority hiring among its

clubs - arrived in town, it was Schott who took charge of the visit.

"They come to my office and we just talk," Schott said, "and then you are - I think we make up things and send it to Major League Baseball and then they ask if there have been any changes. And we go over that and that's about it. . . . They come in, they come in my office, and I take them to lunch and then they go back to the airport."

At one point, Schott said she had used the word "nigger" once in her life, but she went on to say that she really didn't think it was an offensive term to black people.

"Nigger - that's mainly a Southern term," she said.

And while Schott has been accused of bashing the Japanese, she said she really admired the Japanese people.

"My last trip there, I told them they were going to own us without firing a shot. . . . You have to admire the ethics they have. . . . You go over there, the children are all in uniforms. I didn't see any school buses. They all go on their bicycles. They don't put up with all these illegitimate children. They don't have a drug problem that I could see, and their work ethics are unbelievable."

When asked why she didn't have any Japanese people working for her if she so admired them, she said: "I think they all work for themselves."

Baseball's special committee has given no indication as to when it will report its findings on Schott. If it does find that she has repeatedly uttered racial slurs and anti-Semitic remarks, baseball may then have to confront another facet of Schott's character.

In her deposition, Schott says that, at age 64, she isn't about to change.

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