From our archives: first published here on July 20, 2000
MARGE SCHOTT, longtime owner of the Cincinnati Reds baseball club, praised Adolf Hitler in an interview with ESPN May 5, declaring that the fascist dictator “was good at the beginning, but he just went too far.” She lauded Hitler for building “tremendous highways” and getting “all the factories going.”
In 1993 major league baseball had suspended the Reds’ owner for a year and fined her $25,000 for bringing “disrepute and embarrassment” to the game by her repeated use of racial and ethnic slurs.
While Schott’s individual stupidity and crudity cannot be ruled out as factors in her outburst, the comments reflect something more general about professional baseball management and American business owners in general.
Schott’s continued tenure despite her extreme right-wing outlook is a reminder that under the profit system sports – as all other human endeavors – are subordinated to the arbitrary will and greed of individual millionaires and billionaires. The Reds’ ball club, to which the owner contributes nothing from the point of view of its skills and playing ability, is Schott’s private property. The players, coaches, team employees and fans in Cincinnati are entirely hostage to her reactionary quirks.
In response to the claim that Schott’s racism and anti-Semitism bring “disrepute” to baseball, one must ask: what reputation?
Professional baseball from the late 1880s to 1947 was a bastion of Jim Crow segregation. It wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that the game was fully integrated. Baseball was ruled for decades by tight-fisted tyrants who used every means – strike-breaking, Pinkerton spies, blacklisting, fines, salary limits and reductions – to enforce their dictates. Its first commissioner, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, was renowned – and chosen – for his staunchly anti-labour and anti-radical record on the bench. The infamous reserve clause, which was only struck down in 1975, made players virtual chattel slaves of their teams, unable to negotiate with any other employer. The 1994 strike, provoked by a group of viciously anti-union owners, demonstrated that baseball management has never accepted the principle of “free agency.”
In expressing admiration for Hitler, Schott is in part venting her frustration at the erosion of the complete control which sports owners once enjoyed. From the point of view of many capitalists, Hitler no doubt makes an attractive figure. After all, he smashed the unions and all political opposition, rounded up his adversaries and put them in concentration camps, militarized society and generally restored “discipline” to a disorderly society.
As the Reds’ team owner implied in her comments and in her subsequent apology, Hitler’s major failing was that his ambitions ultimately came into conflict with the interests of American bosses.