Jaffe: Controversy over NBA’s Sterling recalls twice-suspended Reds owner Schott

From SABR member Jay Jaffe at SI.com on April 29, 2014:

The controversy over the Donald Sterling audiotape and the extent to which NBA commissioner Adam Silver can discipline the Clippers owner for his racially insensitive remarks has brought the long saga of former Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott back into the public mind. The first woman to purchase a controlling share of a Major League Baseball team, Schott’s status as a pioneer was buried amid her limitless capacity to offend, which eventually led acting commissioner Bud Selig to suspend her not once but twice in the 1990s, and ultimately, to force her from the game.

Long before she was suspended, Schott gained notoriety for her eccentricity, her frugality and her mistreatment of team employees, including the manager and general manager who oversaw her only championship team. Selig couldn’t suspend her for any of that, but when allegations of her discriminatory hiring practices and numerous prejudices — including racist and anti-Semitic statements — were exposed via a wrongful termination suit filed by a former Reds employee, her downfall began.

Schott was born in Cincinnati in 1928 as Margaret Unnewehr. Her father was a lumber baron and a a fifth-generation Cincinnatian, while her mother was a conservatory musician who emigrated from Germany, where her sister bore five sons who fought for the Nazis in World War II. After attending parochial schools and graduating from Sacred Heart Academy in Cincinnati, Unnewehr wed wealthy businessman Charles Schott in 1952. When he died of a heart attack in 1968 at the age of 42, she inherited his empire of automobile dealerships and interests in insurance and construction materials.

In 1981, Schott purchased a minority share of the Reds for $1.1 million, joining a group of investors headed by brothers William and James Williams, who had previously been minority shareholders in the team; William Williams was part owner of the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals as well. In December 1984, with the team in financial trouble, Schott purchased a controlling interest for $24 million; she did so out of concern for the possibility that the Williamses would sell to an out-of-city group. In buying the team, she set herself apart from other women owners, including the Mets’ Joan Payson, the Padres’ Joan Kroc and the Red Sox’ Jean Yawkey, all of whom had inherited their respective teams when their husbands passed away. In 1985, she became president and CEO of the Reds, and she soon emerged as one of baseball’s most visible owners.

Read the full article here: http://mlb.si.com/2014/04/29/donald-sterling-marge-schott-mlb-reds-clippers-suspend-nba/

Originally published: April 29, 2014. Last Updated: April 29, 2014.