Sports fans know that the men, women, or the holding companies that own their favorite teams, are as important to their success as players and coaches. And can be as detrimental. A bad owner can turn a great, respected organization into a laughing stock and embarrassment.
Here’s a look at some of the worst owners in sports history:
1. JEFFREY LORIA: MONTREAL EXPOS (1999 – 2002) / MIAMI MARLINS (2002 – PRESENT)
If you are looking for a man to come into your city and run your baseball team into the ground, Jeffrey Loria is your guy. He’s done it twice already.
Loria will buy your team and hold taxpayers hostage, refusing to bring pay for top talent until a new stadium is built, all the while flirting with other markets.
If a new stadium isn’t built—Montreal—he’ll dump the team in such shambles they do end up in a new market. If a stadium is built—Miami—he’ll spend money for one year, then dump all the players in a fire sale, sit back and cash his revenue-sharing cheques.
No wonder he’s the most hated man in baseball.
2. CHARLES COMISKY: CHICAGO WHITE SOX (1901-1931)
Under Charles Comisky’s ownership, the White Sox experienced their most successful era in franchise history: Five AL Pennants (1900, 1901, 1906, 1917, 1919) and two World Series titles (1906, 1917). So you’d think there’d be some love for the man.
You’d be wrong.
Comisky was a famed cheapskate, who nickel-and-dimed his own players so severely they grew to hate the man. He once benched pitcher Eddie Cicotte to prevent him from winning 30 games and having to pay him a $10,000 bonus.
The player’s distaste for Comisky’s miserliness directly led to eight of them throwing the 1919 World Series for some extra dough—provided by mobsters who beat against them.
It’s the biggest scandal in Major League history and Comisky’s legacy.
3. JERRY JONES: DALLAS COWBOYS (1989 – PRESENT )
After Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys he immediately fired the only coach the team had ever had, Tom Landry, and hired his old college teammate Jimmy Johnson. Landry cried and Cowboys fans were worried.
But then the team won three Super Bowls in four seasons and it looked like Jones was a dynasty-building savior.
However things have not gone well for the Cowboys since and Jones is now better known for meddling with the team and stroking his own ego, then producing winning football teams. Needless to say Cowboys fans have taken notice, and haven’t been impressed.
But as long as a 100,000 of them keep turning up for every game, Jones’ investment keeps paying off and there’s no sign he has plans to sell anytime soon.
4. GEORGE STEINBRENNER: NEW YORK YANKEES (1973 – 2010)
George Steinbrenner will be remembered from briefly returning the Yankees to their former glory. However he also oversaw the longest World Series drought in franchise history, while making some very questionable moves.
He was a notorious dick, insisting on being called “The Boss,” demanding players get haircuts, micromanaging his managers, hiring private investigators to spy on players. He even broke his hand once fighting with rival fans.
To get a sense of Steinbrenner’s nature you just have to hear his favorite line “I will never have a heart attack. I give them.”
5. HAROLD BALLARD: TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (1972 – 1990)
Harold Ballard was a very hands-on owner. Very hands on—he had an apartment built for himself in the rafters at Maple Leaf Gardens so he never had to leave work.
Ballard may also have been certifiably insane.
Ballard was known to fight with players, coaches, managers, league officials and even his own family, earning him a reputation as a the great sports villain of Toronto.
Ballard was notoriously cheap, so much so that he sold off the team’s Stanley Cup banners to make a few bucks.
And the team was terrible under his ownership, managing only six winning seasons in 18 years and tarnishing a once great franchise… which still hasn’t fully recovered.
6. MARGE SCHOTT: CINCINNATI REDS (1984 – 1999)
Marge Schott was own of the very first women to own a Major League team, but is more well renown for being nasty and making bigoted remarks about Jews, African-Americans, and homosexuals.
She even famously supported Adolf Hitler—but only the early years.
Schott would let her beloved dogs shit on the field before and after games, leaving the clean up to some poor member of the grounds crew—and they had Astroturf in Riverfront stadium.
She was the owner the last time the Reds capture a World Series back in 1990, but few, if any, Reds fans miss her.
7. HARRY FRAZEE: BOSTON RED SOX (1916 – 1923)
Frazee is the man who sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $100,000 in cash to finance a stage musical.
Read that sentence again.
It’s pretty much the worst move in the history of pro sports.
It led directly to the Yankees becoming the team of the next five decades and the Red Sox wound up cursed for 86 years.
And it’s not like the Babe was some unknown prospect at the time. Babe Ruth was an established pitcher and 20-game winner and had already led the American league in home runs twice.
Coincidentally, the play Frazee sponsored, My Lady Friends, flopped.