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SCHOTT ISN'T BASEBALL'S ONLY BUFFOON.

Byline: Michael Ventre

I've come to the conclusion that Marge Schott is indefensible. Johnnie Cochran wouldn't take this case. They've got everything on her except a tape from a convenience-store surveillance camera. I wouldn't be surprised if they implicated Schottzie.

Yet I get a queasy feeling whenever I hear that the lords of baseball are seeking to rid themselves of a source of embarrassment. That's like saying the fellows over at Riker's Island are trying to kick out a bad egg.

Baseball is in the process of rehabilitating its image. Of course, so is O.J. Simpson. Both are having about the same amount of success. Whereas Simpson's quest for atonement is blatant and painfully pathetic, baseball's owners seem to be cowering behind some facade of decency and honor while they try to shove an old woman out the door of their men's club.

Again, Marge did it to herself. Her comments were atrocious. What is even more appalling is that she keeps making them. You would think with all the angry letters and phone calls and official communiques from Major League Baseball and national outcry in the media that Marge would put two and two together and realize that something is amiss. Instead, she keeps talking and scalding herself with the hot water she's in.

Yet here is baseball, which doesn't have a commissioner. It has an ``acting'' commissioner, Bud Selig. He was given the title of ``acting'' commissioner because the owners felt it was more dignified than ``singing'' commissioner or ``dancing'' commissioner. Judging by his performance, Selig never auditioned for the role.

A canceled World Series. A continuing horror show named Albert Belle. Miniscule improvements in minority hiring. No labor agreement. Brawls. A tepid stand on tobacco chewing. And the replacement for Fay Vincent remains a bespectacled shill who, if he were any more of a puppet, would be dating Miss Piggy.

It seems ludicrous that Marge Schott has been identified as the scourge upon the baseball landscape. She's a clueless old woman. She's insensitive and outrageous. She's a shining example of how money can't buy class.

But no matter what she says, it is hypocritical of baseball to talk of wresting control of the Cincinnati Reds away from her when George Steinbrenner - who undoubtedly has more money and better lawyers than Schott - can return in less than three years from a ``lifetime'' suspension and keep running the Yankees.

Steinbrenner was suspended for consorting with a known gambler. Schott is being targeted mostly for her racial remarks. Fine. There is no excuse for some of the bile that comes out of her mouth.

But is society more damaged by a callous blabbermouth who occasionally issues a few troubling remarks, or by a multimillion dollar industry that patriotically markets itself as the ``national pastime'' yet has a deplorable history of minority hiring? Which is the greater evil?

Schott's infamous ``Hitler'' comments were probably the most publicized. This is what I believe Marge Schott probably meant to say:

``Hitler was a vicious, evil maniac from Day 1. Yet the German economy was in such a terrible state when he took over as chancellor that when he helped to get it moving again, the German people tragically ignored his words of hatred and anti-Semitism and stupidly bought into his diabolical plan for the future.''

When Marge flapped her gums on the topic, however, it came out thusly: ``Hitler was OK in the beginning, but then he went too far.''

Marge Schott is not the captain of the Harvard debating team. She is more like a crusty old working-class barroom philosopher with limited education who has an opinion on everything and couldn't be quieted if you shoved a jar of pickled eggs down her throat.

This is not meant to soften or excuse her remarks, merely to keep them in perspective. She is what she is. Fans in Cincinnati wince every time she prepares to speak, but they let her speak, because this is America, and even an insensitive old windbag has a right to speak and to run her business.

My solution to Marge Schott is simple: Keep fining her. I don't mean $50,000. After each transgression, make it $100,000, then $200,000, then $500,000 and so on. This is a woman who didn't want to pay so out-of-town scores could be reported in Riverfront Stadium. This is a woman who wanted just one page of press notes issued so she could save paper. Don't you think she'd shut up eventually?

That's not what baseball wants. Baseball wants to ``polish its image.'' It can't afford to have anyone bring disrepute upon the grand old game - unless, of course, he or she gets permission from the league office.

In baseball, it's OK to be a buffoon, as long as you're a member of the club. Schott is not. Naturally, she's being asked to leave. Just for fun, I'd like to see her go out fighting. With any luck, maybe it'll get nice and messy.

MEMO: Michael Ventre's column appears in the Daily News four days a week.

CAPTION(S):

Drawing

Drawing: Marge Schott

Jim Thompson
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 9, 1996
Words:856
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