Reds Owner Is Suspended 1 Year, Fined The Penalty: $25,000. Marge Schott Will Still Pay The Bills. But She Won't Be Able To Run The Team.

Posted: February 04, 1993

CHICAGO — Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott, accused of referring to blacks as ''gorillas" and Jews as "sneaky bastards," was suspended from baseball for one year and fined $25,000 by her colleagues yesterday. She agreed to accept the punishment.

After an investigation that began Dec. 1, a committee of owners voted in a nine-hour meeting at an airport hotel here to bar Schott from any direct involvement with the Reds until Feb. 28, 1994, for "using language that is racially and ethnically offensive."

She can seek reinstatement as early as Nov. 1. Though she may attend games, she may not sit in the owner's box.

Schott still will pay the bills - and reap the profits - of baseball's original franchise, but she may not participate in any personnel or business decisions. James Bowden, baseball's youngest general manager at 31, will assume all of her normal responsibilities, it was announced yesterday.

Further, Schott, 64, is required to "attend and complete multi-cultural training programs," according to the agreement she made with major-league baseball's executive council.

Schott stayed away from yesterday's meeting, instead attending a Cincinnati fans banquet and accompanying several players on a visit with hospital patients.

Her attorney, Robert Bennett, said Schott "does not agree with the views of the executive council, but she will accept these sanctions."

Bennett was at the same hotel as baseball's owners, but did not attend their meeting. He communicated with the committee through numerous phone calls and messages.

Earlier in the week, Bennett had threatened to sue baseball if Schott were suspended.

"We have tried to act in the fairest, most direct manner that this environment would allow," said Milwaukee Braves owner Bud Selig, chairman of the executive council. ". . . We think this is very consistent with past suspensions."

Selig bristled at suggestions that Schott was being punished for attitudes that are not atypical among major-league baseball's owners.

"I've been in baseball for 24 years," he said, "and I've never heard anyone else use that language. From the time I was 4 years old, my mother taught me the difference between appropriate and inappropriate language."

Was Schott's banishment at all related to pressure put on the game by civil rights leaders or members of Congress?

"The basis of this was not image or sizzle or outside influences," Selig said. "It was, what should we do in the best interests of the game?"

Schott's problems began last autumn when a former employee sued Schott over his firing, and she countersued and took the case to court instead of settling.

COMMENTS REPORTED

In depositions in the case, former employees testified that she referred to black players on the Reds as "dumb niggers," once remarking she would rather hire "a trained monkey" than add a black executive to her staff.

Several current and former workers said she disparaged potential business partners as "goddamn Jews," and once said that "Hitler had the right idea, but he went too far." Others said she frequently referred to Japanese people as "Japs."

Schott later acknowledged making some of the statements, insisting that they were meant as innocent figures of speech. In a court deposition, she said she could "not recall" whether she had praised Hitler or referred to the Martin Luther King holiday as "Nigger Day."

In the past two months, Schott began hiring minority employees - including new Reds manager Tony Perez. She donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to minority causes and scholarships in the Cincinnati area. And she publicly apologized on Jan. 22 "for my insensitivity," explaining that she thought such gruff statements might help her gain acceptance in an industry dominated by men.

GIVEN FOUR WEEKS

Under terms of the agreement, Schott has about four weeks to put her business in order. Then, she is officially suspended for a year, although she may seek reinstatement after eight months. If reinstated, she will be on probation until Feb. 28, 1994.

Owners have been suspended before, but it was always done by baseball's commissioner. Of course, the sport has been without a commissioner since last September, when the owners pushed out Fay Vincent. In his absence, an eight- member panel of owners - led by Selig - has governed the game.

Schott, a sixth-generation Cincinnati resident and the daughter of a factory owner, bought the Reds in 1984 when the club was on the verge of bankruptcy. Initially, she drew praise as a woman entrepreneur trying to make it in a man's business. And she received positive press for her informality with players and fans, casually referring to almost everyone as "Honey."

In recent years, however, her public image has soured. Reds employees described Schott as a tight-fisted, mean-spirited meddler who saved pennies by charging workers for long-distance calls and raising the price of soda in the employee dining room. Her affection for her pet dog, Schottzie (and, later, Schottzie II), stopped being regarded as an amusing diversion when it was disclosed that Reds officials - including the general manager - were forced to clean up after the canines.

BETTER TREATMENT?

"Actually, if she treated us the way she treated her dogs, we'd all been better off," former Reds marketing director Roger Blaemire testified in a court deposition.

Yesterday's action makes Schott the third active major-league owner to have been suspended.

In 1990, New York Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner agreed to an indefinite ban for paying $40,000 to a known gambler. Steinbrenner will be reinstated on March 1

Steinbrenner also was suspended for two years in 1974 for making illegal contributions to President Nixon's election campaign. And Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner was barred for the 1977 season for trying to attract a player under contract to another team.

Only the Reds, however, have been doubly hit in recent times. In addition to Schott, Reds manager Pete Rose was permanently barred from baseball in 1989 for illegal gambling.

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