Marge Schott, 75, the former owner of the Cincinnati Reds who was forced to give up control of the baseball team after years of racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic remarks, died March 2 at Christ Hospital in Cincinnati.
No cause of death was given, but she had been hospitalized for about three weeks ago for respiratory problems, a hospital spokeswoman said. She was a chain smoker for years.
Her team won the World Series in 1990, but in the long run, its accomplishments were overshadowed by the owner's repeatedly expressed belief that Adolf Hitler "was good at the beginning" but that he "went too far," as well as other controversial remarks about race and religion. Her supporters defended her right to free speech, but ultimately, the weight of all the comments was her undoing.
Mrs. Schott was a character with a capital C. Until she took over the Reds in 1984, she was best known as a used-car dealer who made tacky television commercials featuring her dog, Schottzie. The legendary Reds player Pete Rose was her manager until 1989, when he was banned from baseball for life for gambling.
After Rose began a book tour and a campaign for reinstatement, she told The Washington Post in January that Rose "should definitely, honey, definitely, be in the Hall of Fame, whosever business that is, because he is baseball."
When she took over the Reds, she cracked down on expenses to an extent rarely, if ever, seen before in major league sports. She turned off lights and copy machines and insisted on personally approving expenses of more than $50. She scrimped on the farm system and scouting, eliminated fan promotions and did away with the marketing that made the Reds a regional draw.
The penny-pinching and the meddling had an effect.
After winning the Series, she fired the general manager, and the manager left. Then she raced through five managers in six years. She slashed the payroll, and the team struggled on the field.
The team also started suffering at the gate. Attendance began falling after 1993, when she was suspended the first time for offensive remarks. In 1996, she demanded a new ballpark from local government but refused to campaign for the tax increase that provided the funding.
In May 1996, she finally apologized for her remarks and renounced her interest in Hitler. But the damage was done.
In June 1996, Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, fed up with Mrs. Schott's comments, forced her to relinquish control over the daily operations of the team for two years.
She sold all but one share of the Reds in 1999 for $67 million. She then sued owner Carl Lindner because she didn't like her seats in the new ballpark.
Mrs. Schott kept a low profile after that, although she appeared at news conferences when she made donations to the local zoo, the Humane society, Cincinnati Children's Hospital, St. Ursula's Academy and a boys and girls club.
She was born Margaret Unnewehr, the daughter of a successful lumber merchant and a classical pianist. She married industrialist Charles Schott in 1952. They had no children. He died in 1968, leaving her to run the car dealership, extensive pig iron interests and brickmaking plants. She bought another car dealership, a garbage dump, cattle and race horses, all before she bought the baseball team. She never remarried.
Although she clearly had a head for business, she suggested at her first baseball news conference that women should not be allowed to run businesses because they are too emotional.
As she left the spotlight, Schott blamed the other baseball owners.
"I don't know what I would have done differently, except for stood up and fought with the boys a little more," she said.