Selig finally named baseball commish

CHICAGO (AP) — Bud Selig was unanimously elected baseball’s ninth commissioner today, nearly six years after he took over the post on an acting basis.
Selig, the Milwaukee Brewers’ owner since 1970, will put the shares of his team in a trust. His election marks the first time an owner was picked to fill the post. In the past, commissioners were independent.
“I hear people say, `He’s an owner and he’s one of them,'” Selig said, surrounded by four grandchildren. “First and foremost, for those who know me, I am a fan. There is no one who could love this game more than I do — its history, its tradition, its honor and, above all, its decency.
“Yes, we’ve had a lot of things that have happened — we’ve had eight work stoppages. We have to make sure the next generation doesn’t have to endure any work stoppages.”
The vote by the owners was 30-0. Selig gets a five-year term, and one official said his salary will be about $2.25 million.
“I think people recognized the job that was being done,” said New York Mets co-owner Fred Wilpon. “There was a great turnaround in baseball, and Bud should get the credit. It happened on his watch.”
Selig, the owner of the Brewers since 1970, was part of the group that helped force Fay Vincent to resign on Sept. 7, 1992. He was angered that both Vincent and Peter Ueberroth deemed themselves impartial and immune to the owners’ wishes.
That won’t happen with Selig, called baseball’s champion vote-counter by several owners. Even though he’ll have the title, he’ll still rule by consensus.
“A commissioner is not a czar sitting above the law,” Selig said as his election approached. “Yes, a commissioner has a lot of power, but it must be confined to certain areas.”
Don’t expect another Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Or even another Ueberroth.
“I know what the average fan is unhappy about,” Selig said. “He or she doesn’t want to hear anymore about what I said, what Done Fehr said, how much money. The more we focus on the field, the better off we’ll all be.”
His term as acting commissioner, which began two days after Vincent’s resignation, already has gone on 2,131 days, longer than the span of four of his eight predecessors: William Eckert, Ueberroth, A. Bartlett Giamatti and Vincent.
Selig presided over the start of interleague play, the introduction of three-division leagues and wild cards and vastly increased revenue sharing between the large- and small-market clubs.
He also was in charge during the 230-day strike that led to a sharp drop-off in attendance and popularity. But with that behind, he hopes the next five years will be calmer than the last five.
Three issues figure to dominate his agenda during the remainder of the year: Marge Schott, the Minnesota Twins and Pete Rose.
Schott, the Cincinnati Reds owner, was forced to give up day-to-day control of the team in the middle of the 1996 season because of inflammatory remarks that angered women, blacks and Jews. The sanctions against her expire after this season, but baseball officials informally have discussed whether the team should continue to operate largely without her influence.
“We’ll deal with that in due course,” Selig said.
The Twins, angered that Minnesota’s government won’t fund a new ballpark, have threatened to move to North Carolina, but voters there voted down one stadium proposal and it is unclear if Charlotte will fund a stadium.
Rose figures to be the easiest issue for Selig. Baseball’s career hits leader, banned for life in 1989 following a gambling investigation by Giamatti, has applied for reinstatement, which would make him eligible for the Hall of Fame. Selig shows no inclination to reverse the ban.
“I think Bart did the right thing,” Selig said earlier this year. “There’s no reason to change that.”