Somewhere along the way Bud Selig lost the meaning. Sometime between his halcyon college days (UW ‘56) and tenure as MLB’s big kahuna he lost his love for baseball.
It’s a surprising turnabout given how his early years read.
Like so many others during America’s radio days the young Bud joined that burgeoning class of folk known as sporting fans, often attending minor league contests with his Mom in Milwaukee (Brewers AA) (and being treated to the Casey Stengel show for a brief time (’44) before the Yankees beckoned). Those were the days when the NFL was still a niche, ballparks welcomed the working class and every boy dreamed of being the next Babe Ruth, Bob Feller or Jackie Robinson.
But apart from holding firm on the Pete Rose ban most of Bud’s actions as Commish have been designed almost exclusively to add millions to the coffers of the game’s elite.
Whether it’s banishing day-games from post-season to maximize TV revenue or fostering an owner mentality that prices middle / low-income fans right outta’ the stadium ($12 dogs & $40 bleachers), Bud Selig’s reign will be remembered for its unprecedented profits, playoff expansion, PEDs and baseball losing its title (to the NFL) as America’s top sport.
Other notable Selig-era developments:
No doubt each Commissioner since Landis considered the move, and no doubt each decided against it because the benefit is ephemeral. The initial excitement is short-lived while it weakens the League rivalry which had been pretty intense.
Home Run Derby:
Spawned by the power-surge from PEDs, the Home Run Derby is a vestige best forgotten. It’s turned the All Star Game it precedes into an anti-climatic event that the kids don‘t even watch. But it’s this exhibition (which should be a respite for the players) that determines World Series home field. Probably Selig’s single worst decision at the helm.
You don’t have to be an old-school purist to see how replay-delay can make sport-watching excruciatingly painful while it stymies momentum. But as long as on-field calls are scrutinized, replay will be necessary. Selig’s patient, targeted implementation of limited replay has shown intelligence, verve and respect for the game. Kudos.
Elias Record Book:
No sport values its statistics and records like baseball. Theories abound as to why. MLB can ill afford to lose its touchstone (a trusted record book) to the ill-effects of PEDs. If it means asterisks and broad delineations, so be it. Inaction is no solution.
Bud didn’t usher-in the latest version of greed that’s swept the nation. The six shots that rang out in Dealey Plaza on 11-22-63 likely did that. But then Allan Huber Selig didn’t do anything to moderate baseball’s money-grab, either.
And yet somewhere deep in the recesses of Bud’s heart a flicker of memory has been burning. A remembrance of the reasons why he came to love baseball in the first place.
Fanned by Roger Goodell’s player-panned efforts to draw blood in the NFL’s recent money war (for ‘11 testing), the flicker grew into a hearty flame. Not to be outdone by the NFL again Selig worked overtime to ensure MLB would be the first to come clean.
Last week MLB player & owner reps announced they’d reached an agreement on a new CBA that would run through 2016 (pending a final rank & file vote).
Getting most of the ink has been the planned expansion of playoffs, replay and market competition (luxury tax). All of it small potatoes.
The biggest story is the news that baseball will begin drawing blood in 2012 to test for HGH and other performance enhancing drugs.
To say it’s been long in coming is an understatement. And to say it’s a done-deal would be premature, given how DeMaurice Smith and NFL players cravenly backed-off their own concession to blood-testing when the NFL agreement was announced in August.
Like the man in the Oval Office, Bud too has a bully-pulpit. If players vote to cut & run from real testing Selig can make his voice heard. America won’t lose sleep over PEDs (See; NFL) but if players are called-out for chickening-out fandom will take notice.
He has one more season to forge his legacy. Bud Selig can depart as Mr. Moneybags, remembered only as the man who made his friends a lot o’ loot and watched-by as PEDs nearly destroyed baseball and tarnished its bible (Elias); or, he can go out as the fiscally-savvy, forward-thinking Commissioner who (eventually) became the game’s savior.
Go for the gusto, Bud. It’s what made Milwaukee famous.
About the Author
Written by Steven Keys
A native of the old Northwest Territory (IL), my wife and I have lived in four Midwestern states and Arizona. Today we live in Duluth, Georgia. I have a history / legal background.