Selig, Bud

▪ 2003

      At times during 2002 Bud Selig, commissioner of Major League Baseball, seemed to some observers to be vying to become the most unpopular man in the sport. Before the season began, he stirred anger among many fans with his proposal to cut two of the league's 30 teams—widely believed to be the Minnesota Twins and Montreal Expos—because of the teams' financial difficulties. Then on July 9 at the All-Star Game in Milwaukee, Wis., Selig made another controversial decision: to let the game end in a 7–7 tie at the end of 11 innings, despite boisterous chants of “Let them play!” from the sellout crowd of 41,871. Later in the season the commissioner faced additional criticism from some quarters as an August 30 deadline for a strike by players loomed. Selig and the league owners had pushed for a luxury tax on team payrolls—something that the players union had resisted but finally agreed to as part of a new collective-bargaining agreement hammered out just hours before the deadline. The agreement delayed by at least four years Selig's plan to eliminate two teams.

      Allan H. Selig was born on July 30, 1934, in Milwaukee. After earning a bachelor's degree in history and political science from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1956, he served two years in the military before returning to Milwaukee to work as a car dealer. An avid baseball fan, he eventually became the largest public stockholder in the old Milwaukee Braves franchise, and when the team moved to Atlanta, Ga., in 1965, he organized a group of investors to bring a major league baseball team back to Milwaukee. His group failed in an attempt to buy the Chicago White Sox in 1969 but the following year succeeded in acquiring—for $10.8 million—the bankrupt Seattle Pilots, which the group renamed the Milwaukee Brewers. With Selig as club president, the Brewers grew into a successful franchise, making it to the World Series in 1982.

      After baseball commissioner Fay Vincent resigned his post in 1992, Selig became the de facto commissioner when his fellow owners selected him to be chairman of the Major League Executive Council. In this capacity he presided over the contentious 234-day strike by players in 1994–95 that led to a precipitous drop in game attendance and the cancellation of the World Series for the first time since 1904. He formally assumed the title of baseball commissioner in 1998 after league owners unanimously voted to give him a five-year term. This marked the first time that a team owner had been chosen for the commissioner's post.

      While some accused Selig of looking after the owners' interests at the players' expense, others praised him for the changes he was able to bring about in the sport, including the introduction of interleague play and three-division leagues and increased revenue sharing between large- and small-market franchises.

Sherman Hollar

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Universalium. 2010.

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