Marge Schott (August 18, 1928 – March 2, 2004) was the controversial primary owner, president and CEO of Major League Baseball's Cincinnati Reds for nearly fifteen years. She was the first female owner to buy a baseball team outright, rather than inheriting it.
Born Margaret Unnewehr, she was the daugher of a Cincinnati, Ohio native who grew wealthy in the lumber business. She married Charles Schott, a member of a wealthy Cincinnati family, in 1952, and inherited his automobile dealerships and interests in other industries, when he died of a heart attack in 1968.
In 1981, Schott first purchased a stake in the Cincinnati Reds. On December 21, 1984, Marge Schott purchased controlling interest for a reported $11 million and, making her a general partner and majority owner in the Reds organization and in 1985, she was named President and CEO of the club. She quickly became one of baseball's most publicly visible and outspoken owners.
In 1990, the Reds under Schott won the World Series against the heavily favored Oakland Athletics in a four game sweep. Even though the Reds were major underdogs, they went the season wire-to-wire (meaning they were in first place for the entire regular season).
In 1992, Schott became embroiled in controversy after allegedly calling former Reds Eric Davis and Dave Parker, "million-dollar niggers." It was also alleged that Schott had a swastika armband at home. On November 14, Schott issued a statement saying that she was "not a racist." On November 29, she was quoted in the New York Times as saying that Adolf Hitler was initially good for Germany and that she didn't understand why the slur "Jap" was offensive. Major League Baseball appointed a committee to investigate Schott.
On February 3, 1993, Marge Schott was fined US $25,000 and banned from day-to-day operations of the Reds for the year stemming from her use of racial and ethnic slurs. She returned to work on November 1.
On May 18, 1994, Schott was again caught up in controversy saying that she didn't want her players to wear earrings saying that "only fruits wear earrings." On May 5, 1996, Schott again said that she thought Hitler "was good in the beginning, but went too far." In response, Major League Baseball again banned Schott from day-to-day operations through 1998.
On April 20, 1999, Marge Schott agreed to sell her controlling interest in the Cincinnati Reds for $67 million to a group led by Cincinnati businessman, Carl Lindner. At the time she was facing a third suspension from Major League Baseball and an expiring ownership agreement with her limited partners, who planned to oust her. Schott continued to own a limited share of the team, however.
In 2001, Schott, a long-time smoker, began to develop health problems. She was hospitalized twice for breathing problems and suffered from pneumonia in 2003. On February 9, 2004, Marge Schott was hospitalized. Some reports claim Schott was hospitalized due to a cold while others said she complained of knee ailments. However, during her stay, Schott developed breathing problems and had to be put on life support. She died on March 2.
In addition to her interest in the Reds, Schott was also a major contributor to charitable organizations in Cincinnati, including Children's Hospital and the Cincinnati Zoo.