C'mon Bud, make Marge sell the team

The Cincinnati Enquirer

For her next feat, Marge Schott will provide us the revisionist history of slavery: high employment, low overhead, economic boom.

Or perhaps she will explain the bubonic plague's positive impact on overcrowding. Or the urban renewal facilitated by the Johnstown flood.

After you've put a positive spin on Adolf Hitler, no historical hurdle is too high. The World According To Marge would be a sure-fire best seller, and a pleasant fiction compared to the painful facts.

Schott should get to work at it right away. She should find a mountain retreat with no telephones, no television cameras and no smoking ordinances, and there compose the Great American Nonsense Novel. She should write day and night until every sentence sparkles with her crystalline confusion. She should leave Cincinnati in peace.

The Reds chief executive officer is a continuing embarrassment to her hometown, and a mounting liability to major-league baseball. She sought to defuse her latest scandal Tuesday afternoon with a tardy ghost-written apology - and appears to have escaped new sanctions for now - yet the basic problem persists. Marge Schott can barely open her mouth without betraying her ignorance, her insensitivity and her inadequacy for the position she holds.

"Everybody knows that he (Hitler) was good at the beginning, but he just went too far," she told ESPN last week.

Schott is entitled to her opinion, of course, however ill-informed and objectionable it might be. What she is not entitled to is the right to ruin tax-subsidized baseball in Cincinnati.

Don't go to Reds games

The Reds deserve better, and major-league baseball should demand it. Acting commissioner Bud Selig's spineless response Tuesday was that he would "continue to monitor the situation," but the situation merits more drastic measures. If Schott will not step aside willingly, it is time she was shoved.

Selig should exercise the best-interests-of-baseball powers vested in the commissioner's office to compel Schott to sell her controlling interest in the Reds. Let her be made a limited partner, if she can not be made a silent one.

"Come on Bud, step forward," Cincinnati attorney Howard Richshafer urged Tuesday. "Flex your muscles."

Richshafer is a tax attorney, and familiar with the peculiarities of partnerships. He thinks Reds shareholders may have adequate grounds to challenge Schott's control of the franchise, but that Selig would have a better chance to make it stick.

"Legally, it would take a long time for them (the limited partners) to get rid of her," Richshafer said. "You would have to show a breach of fiduciary care - proof that she has devalued the team. The burden of proving that is very difficult. You would have to schlep in all these customers who were disillusioned by her conduct."

That would be daunting, but it could be done. Anecdotal evidence tells you that a growing number of Reds fans are avoiding the ballpark because they are loathe to put more money in Marge Schott's pockets. Richshafer is one of these fans. Another is real estate broker Stuart Hodesh, who has been boycotting the Reds since 1992.

"The people have to tell her that we don't buy what you're selling," Hodesh said Tuesday. "Don't go to the games. Don't buy her cars. Her God is the dollar sign. That's all she understands."

Selig has the power

Each time Marge Schott offends a fan, she devalues her franchise and those of her fellow owners. Visiting teams receive a piece of the gate at every Reds home game. The smaller the gate, the smaller that piece.

Schott's partners are eager to arrange her exit, but they are wary of their chances in court.

"They could sue her for damages," says local attorney George Vincent, "but I don't think they could force her to sell."

Selig could. He has the precedent and the power. What he lacks is the will.

Some owners believe Selig has been slow to punish Schott because he is Jewish and reluctant to react harshly to remarks hostile to his heritage.

Everybody knows what Hitler means to the Jews. At least they ought to.

Originally published May 8, 1996.