Washington. -- The president of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team, Marge Schott, hit for the cycle last week. She singled with the remark that Adolf Hitler was an OK ruler during his first years as dictator, though she allowed that he lost momentum later on.
Then she doubled her problems by saying that she wasn't aware the slang word ''Jap'' was offensive to people of Japanese origin. (After all, that's what Americans of her generation called the Japanese during World War II).
Next at-bat, Ms. Schott went three-for-three, tripling her infractions by employing the ultimate derogatory term a white person can utter. She referred to an African-American as a ''nigger.''
Add it all up and Marge Schott has hit a home run in insensi- tivity.
Al Campanis, formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers, was forced into retirement when he suggested on ABC's ''Nightline'' five years ago that the reason there were not more black managers in baseball was because there was something inherent in their race which kept them from becoming management material. Marge Schott may be able to fend off a similar fate, but I doubt it. The sharks smell the blood.
Major League baseball's executive council meets this week and may decide to take some action against Ms. Schott, including disciplining her in some way under the ''not in the best interests of baseball'' clause of the Major League Agreement. She could be suspended, as New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was for questionable financial activities.
The offended classes, if they want to make a genuine contribution to race and ethnic relations, ought not to go after Ms. Schott's head, but focus on her heart. They might consider the strategy employed by the late Rabbi Marc Tannenbaum when former Southern Baptist Convention President Bailey Smith declared a decade ago that ''God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.''
Instead of joining the chorus that denounced Mr. Smith, Rabbi Tannenbaum invited him along on a trip to Israel. Mr. Smith returned, repentant and more sensitized to Jewish people than he would have been in the face of criticism alone.
Let Marge Schott be invited to visit Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Israel, where she can reflect on Hitler's handiwork against the Jewish people. Let her visit Japan where she will see that her view of the Japanese is frozen in time and does not resemble modern Japan. Let her meet with black families in their homes and get to know them. Let her see all of these as people, not stereotypes.
Then, not only the best interests of baseball will have been
served, but also the humanity of Marge Schott.
Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist.