Even if you’re not an avid watcher of baseball, you probably know about Bud Selig.
He brought major league baseball back to Milwaukee after the Braves left for Atlanta. And Selig helped push through the construction of Miller Park. But for the last 23 years, he’s been at the helm of Major League Baseball as its commissioner. That career ends this weekend when he retires.
Bud Selig says, when he took over as commissioner of Major League Baseball in 1992, things were awful.
“There were times that everything that could go wrong, went wrong,” Selig says.
One local sports reporter watching the major leagues was Gregg Hoffman.
“They were having a lot of labor problems, a bad gap between the larger markets and the so called small market franchises, of which Milwaukee was one. There were some real economic problems in the game in the mid-1990s,” Hoffmann says.
Hoffmann says probably the worst year for Selig as commissioner was 1994.
“One of the things he did have to do was call off the World Series when there was a work stoppage. So it was kind of bottoming out,” Hoffmann says.
There has not been another Major League strike since, but a different problem loomed—steroids. Bulked-up players kept setting records, and fans loved it.
“Baseball was looking to make money. I understand that.”
Steve Rosenbloom is a sports columnist with the Chicago Tribune. He faults Selig for not responding to steroid use faster.
“Players were looking to make money. I understand that. But when something like that was going on, and something like that is that obvious and nobody is able to stop it until Congress steps in, it’s a bad mark on the leadership that he’s provided in baseball,” Rosenbloom says.
In recent years, Selig has investigated and suspended players for doping. They’ve included Milwaukee’s own Ryan Braun.
Selig made other changes in the game. For instance, he helped level the playing field between larger and smaller markets by instituting revenue sharing. He also made the All Star game significant, a change columnist Steve Rosenbloom does not like.
“He took a meaningless game, the baseball All-Star game, a fans game, where fans have a say who plays in it, and what he did was he attached home field advantage to the World Series based on the league that wins it,” Rosenbloom says.
Yet Rosenbloom praises another change Selig made. He added a wildcard game to the playoffs, meaning more teams have a chance to vie for the World Series.
As for Selig – who has always maintained an office in his native Milwaukee, he says he’s accomplished what he wanted as commissioner. He told the St. Louis Baseball Writers that he could not be happier with the current state of baseball.
“I’m proud to say this is no longer a sport resistant to change. We adapt to the wishes of our fans. We’ve made our product more accessible than any time in our history. And after years of the most acrimonious labor relationship possible, baseball now enjoys at least 21 consecutive years of uninterrupted play,” Selig says.
Selig says with every year, his love for the game has grown. Now he gets to watch it from a new perspective.