Bud Selig’s contract as the Major League Baseball Commissioner has been renewed yet again. What started out as an interim position has moved well beyond what the term “interim” denotes. It began in September of 1992 when Selig replaced Bart Giamatti (the commish that banned Pete Rose). Selig was elected unanimously by the baseball owners in July 9, 1998. He’s been along for the ride ever since.
Selig was born as Allen H. Selig on July 30, 1934 in Milwaukee. He made his money as a car dealer. He had strong community ties and a true penchant for the game. He bought the Seattle Pilots for $10.8 million.
Ultimately, he’d lose his investment and his team until 1970 when a Seattle bankruptcy court order brought the Milwaukee Brewers back into business. Eventually, he became a majority owner of the Brewers. He is the only baseball commish to have owned a franchise and upon the bestowing of his current title, he put his daughter in charge of the family franchise. In January of 2005 the Brewers were sold, putting to bed Selig’s 35-year run with the franchise.
Selig was involved with many aspects of athletics and his community. He served on the board of the Green Bay Packers football team, was the founder of Athletes for Youth (Boys and Girls Club) and assisted in establishing the Child Abuse Prevention Network and the Businesses Against Drunk Driving. An upstanding member of society and a decorated one at that.
With such an active role in the well-being of his surroundings and his insatiable love of the game, one might think Selig was well suited for the commish position.
So how has he served the average Joe and Jane baseball lovers of America?
Selig came in as interim baseball commissioner during tumultuous times. Perhaps his first claim to fame was the 1994 work stoppage (272 days) which halted America’s past-time, nixing the premier event of the sport – the World Series – for the first time in 90 years.
His contributions to the purists of the sport have brought mixed results. He added the Wild-Card into the playoffs, added inter-league play and implemented the All-Star Game implication that fan voting could actually impact home-field advantage of the World Series. (In reality, some fans don’t know skill; they know popularity, good looks, etc.)
Allen Selig, the former car salesman that came from a small-market team, failed to make a stand on initiating a players’ salary cap. Instead, he implemented a “luxury tax.”
He is like a pawn to the George Steinbrenner’s of baseball, (Steinbrenner is the owner of the New York Yankees) as this luxury tax has brought the notion of level playing fields down several gazillion notches. It has further catapulted the divide between the haves (big money) and the have-nots (small money).
Under Selig’s influence (or lack thereof), the Players Union felt it just wasn’t important enough to have steroid testing. Selig couldn’t grow a back-bone. With the recent backlash of the findings of the Mitchell Report (George J. Mitchell, former prosecutor and U.S. Senator) Selig maintains that he will do what is in his power to stop this juiced-up steroid frenzy.
The Mitchell Report was an independent investigation into the illegal use of steroids and other performance enhancing substances by baseball players. In the executive summary of the report it states that MLB’s reactions to reports of abuse were “slow to develop and initially ineffective.” HMPH. Thanks a lot Bud. Way to spend my tax dollars. It is worth noting that in 2005, MLB and the Players Association upped the stakes and began mandating steroid testing. And by the end of 2006, MLB had the strictest and most devastating punishments for athletes who failed their testing.
In a New York Times article by Bill Pennington dated December 14, Selig’s comments about the report were arresting. Or were they?
“This report is a call to action,” he said raising his right finger. “And I will act.” (This whole index finger pointing thing brought me back to former baseball great and Baltimore Oriole Rafael Palmeiro testifying in front of Congress on the steroid issue, which he vehemently denied ever using. Palmeiro later tested positive for steroid use.)
Selig will act. Phew! I was getting worried. The Mitchell Report is a call to action? Guess what, dude? You don’t have any choice but to act now. The U.S. Government is breathing down your neck and the world watches and waits. A sport tainted? A Commissioner gone wild?
As the baseball almanac mentions on its web page, “what happened yesterday is being preserved today.” Hallelujah brothers and sisters, we are preserving the joyous memories.
With that said, I am brought back to the days of my youth where pick-up games meant playing after dark when you could barely see the ball. When our parents told us to be home before the streetlights came on because we couldn’t get enough of this game. When witnessing history with a legend like Cal Ripken, Jr. brought a hero of another like Lou Gehrig back to life.
I reminisce and realize that yet another American tradition has been bought, sold and pimped out to the highest bidders only to find it’s fate swirling around the toilet and the big cheese is left saying: ‘yeah, it’s time to act alright.’
So I propose a toast to the man who once had love for the game, but seemed to lose his way. Who is being called to act now. Finally! Who, after helping steer our beloved past-time into the shame game it has become for tomorrow, is our commish for another term.
This Bud’s for you.