Bob Howsam, architect of Cincinnati’s baseball dominance of the 1970s, came out of retirement in 1983 to attempt to rebuild the Big Red Machine. His protégé was Greg Riddoch.
A manager in the Reds’ farm system during the Machine’s heyday, Riddoch was brought aboard first as assistant director of player development and scouting. According to Riddoch, it was Howsam’s plan to promote him through the ranks – if he proved able – and groom him as a successor. Barely two years later, Riddoch was about to be named assistant general manager.
And then Marge Schott bought the Reds.
The grand dame of the car lot was immensely popular with the people of Cincinnati, if for no other reason than she held hot dog prices at $1, but she was absurdly tight-fisted in the office. Dismissive of scouts anyway (“All they do is watch ballgames,” she once famously said), she nettled them further by requiring they make phone calls not from their hotel rooms, where access charges were applied, but from lobby pay phones.
It took one meeting for Howsam to realize he couldn’t work for her, but Riddoch stayed on. For a time.
“Not to be disrespectful to her,” Riddoch said, “but it was ridiculous. My budget was $8 million to run seven minor league teams, and I had been allowed to OK anything up to $30,000 without the GM’s signature. Well, she dropped that to $10,000 the first week and $100 the next. You just can’t operate that way.”
But the low moment came later, when Riddoch went to Schott with a requisition for 72 dozen bats.
“How come so many?” she asked.
“Because they break ‘em,” Riddoch replied.
Schott didn’t flinch.
“I want you,” she told Riddoch, “to send a memo to every player in this organization tomorrow: No more broken bats.”
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