American baseball commissioner
As Major League Baseball (MLB) commissioner for more than a decade (the first six as acting commissioner), Bud Selig has won few friends. In fact, he seems to have an uncanny ability to do things that will enrage the maximum number of people in and around the game. Even when Selig engineered a last-minute compromise settlement between players and owners to avert a season-ending baseball strike in the late summer of 2002, he came under fire for his absence from negotiations until the eleventh hour. This only added to the list of the most recent grievances against Selig, which include his widely reviled decision to end the 2002 All-Star
game after the 11th inning, a late-2001 proposal to eliminate two or more teams from MLB, and his strong support of testing to detect the use of steroids and other drugs by players. There's no question that Selig is in a delicate position. A great deal of passion surrounds the American pastime, and it's only logical that decisions that favor owners over players very likely would earn Selig the enmity of the players, or vice-versa. However, Selig in recent years has been unable to make anyone—players, fans, or even owners—very happy.
Born in Milwaukee
He was born Allan H. Selig in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on July 30, 1934. Son of Ben (owner of a car dealership) and Marie (an elementary school teacher) Selig, he inherited his love of baseball mostly from his mother. An avid baseball fan, Marie Selig followed the exploits of the area's major league teams—the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Cubs—on her kitchen radio. Whenever possible, young Selig tried to attend local games, and in high school he joined the baseball team, aspiring someday to get into major league ball. Before long, he accepted that his lack of any notable talent on the ball field meant he would have to try to get into the game through the front office.
In 1956, after graduating from the University of Wisconsin with a bachelor's degree in American history and political science, Selig served in the U.S. Army for two years. Returning from military service in 1958, he joined his father in running the family's Ford dealership. Not long thereafter, his father died, leaving the business to his son. Selig had obviously inherited a knack for business from his father, for the dealership prospered under his guidance, generating enough profit to allow him to diversify his business holdings. He made a substantial investment in Jake's, a popular Jewish deli in Milwaukee, that in time proved even more profitable than the auto dealership.
Seeks Ball Club for Milwaukee
Selig's love of baseball remained strong. When the Braves moved to Milwaukee from Boston in 1953, he became an avid supporter and eventually became the largest public investor in the team. Shortly after the Braves decamped for Atlanta in 1965, Selig formed an organization called Teams Inc., dedicated to bringing major league baseball back to Milwaukee. Teams Inc., which later changed its name to The Brewers, made an unsuccessful bid for the Chicago White Sox in 1969 but a year later got lucky when a federal bankruptcy referee awarded the failing Seattle Pilots to the organization. Shortly thereafter, Selig, the principal owner, was named president of the Brewers organization.
In sharp contrast with his current situation as baseball commissioner, Selig was widely praised for his management of the Brewers franchise. Twelve years after the team made its new home in Milwaukee, the Brewers advanced to the World Series, where they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. The Brewers won an unprecedented three consecutive Baseball America awards in 1985, 1986, and 1987, and in 1978 Selig himself was named Major League Executive of the Year by United Press International.
Heads Major League Executive Council
In September 1992, when Fay Vincent resigned under pressure as baseball commissioner, Selig's fellow club owners named him chairman of the Major League Executive Council. Since the Major League Agreement gives the Executive Council the right to regulate baseball in the absence of a commissioner, Selig became the defacto commissioner. In his new post, he pressed for some sort of revenue-sharing arrangement under which the larger, more profitable teams, such as the New York Yankees, would help to subsidize smaller franchises, such as Selig's own Milwaukee Brewers. Selig also called for a cap on player salaries and an end to arbitration to settle salary disputes. His support of these issues endeared him to many of his fellow owners but won him no friends among the players.
Less than two years after taking over as acting commissioner, Selig faced his first big challenge in the form of a players strike in 1994. After the players struck on August 12, Selig worked hard to promote owner unity. As the strike dragged on into early September with no end in sight, Selig cancelled the rest of the season, including the World Series. Not until the beginning of the 1995 season was the strike ended, and then only by a court injunction ordering baseball to go back to its previous collective bargaining agreement while negotiations continued. A new contract was eventually hammered out, but the bitterness between owners and players lingered long after the settlement. And for Selig, the 1994 strike signaled an end to the two-year honeymoon he'd enjoyed with the media, which now turned on him with a vengeance. Pete Pascarelli of Sporting News wrote that Selig was "willing to crush the game into an unrecognizable mess," adding that baseball was "on the brink of utter ruin under his watch."
|1934||Born July 30 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin|
|1956||Earns B.A. degree from University of Wisconsin in Madison|
|1956-58||Serves in U.S. Army|
|1969||Makes unsuccessful bid to bring the Chicago White Sox to Milwaukee|
|1970||The Brewers, an organization headed by Selig, acquires Seattle Pilots for $10.8 million|
|1977||Marries Suzanne Lappin Steinman|
|1992||Elected chairman of major league baseball's executive council, effectively becoming interim chairman|
|1998||Formally elected baseball commissioner by club owners|
Awards and Accomplishments
|1959||Named president of Selig Executive Leasing Company|
|1978||Named UPI's Major League Executive of the Year|
|1981||Received International B'nai B'rith Sportsman of the Year Award|
|1983||Named Sportsman of the Year by U.S. Olympic Committee|
|1989||Received August A. Busch Jr. Award for service to baseball|
|1994||Named Wisconsin's Top Sports Personality of Past 25 Years|
|2002||Engineered settlement averting players' strike|
Criticism of Selig Grows
In the eight years between the 1994 strike and the threatened strike of 2002, Selig did little to redeem himself in the eyes of the media, players, and baseball fans. His stock among ball club owners even began to erode. Although some of his ideas appeared to make good sense, it seemed somehow that Selig had become the man to hate, and nothing he did could reverse his dramatic decline in popularity. After the World Series in 2001, Selig announced that it might be necessary to eliminate two or more teams in order to ensure the survival of Major League Baseball. Then came his disastrous decision to end the 2002 All-Star Game after the 11th inning. Among players, Selig won few fans with his continuing push for routine drug testing. By the end of the 2002 baseball season, calls for Selig to step down had reached a fever pitch.
Selig, a man who once said that he wanted more than anything to be liked, seemed to be holding up well in the face of the almost universal approbation he was facing early in the new millennium. Whether he draws strength from his lifelong love of the game he now administers or from a firm conviction in the rightness of his ideas, we can only speculate. But it doesn't look like Selig has plans of stepping down anytime soon.
Selig and his wife, the former Suzanne Lappin Steinman, have two daughters, Sari and Wendy. Away from baseball, both he and his wife are involved in a wide variety of humanitarian and charitable causes, including the Milwaukee Brewers Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) Fund, which Selig co-founded in December 1987.
Related Biography: Commissioner Fay Vincent
Fay Vincent, the commissioner of baseball replaced by Bud Selig, says he harbors no hard feelings against his successor, at least not personally. But he has had some harsh words for Selig's leadership abilities—or lack thereof.
Vincent, deputy commissioner under Bart Giamatti, was swept into the commissioner's office after Giamatti died suddenly of a heart attack in September 1989. He ran afoul of the baseball club owners almost from the start but particularly angered them with his decision to restructure major league baseball's four divisions into six. Selig worked with others to oust Vincent and succeeded in September 1992.
He was born Francis Thomas Vincent Jr. in Waterbury, Connecticut, on May 29, 1938. Known almost from birth as "Fay," the Irish nickname for Francis, Vincent received his bachelor's degree from Williams College in 1960 and then attended Yale University Law School, graduating in 1963. From 1963 to 1978, he was a corporate attorney in New York and Washington, D.C. In 1978 he served as associate director of corporate finance for the Securities and Exchange Commission. From 1978 until 1988 he was chairman and chief operating officer of Columbia Pictures Industries. He came to Major League Baseball as deputy commissioner and COO in 1989. Vincent is married to the former Valerie McMahon, with whom he has three children: Anne and twins William and Edward.
Address: Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, 245 Park Ave., 31st Fl., New York, NY 10167. Phone: (212) 931-7800.
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Sketch by Don Amerman