SBJ/May 23-29, 2016/Sports Business Awards

For Selig, the challenges led to triumphs

Longtime observers, colleagues and business partners of MLB Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig heard a lot of his well-worn phrases during his acceptance last week of Sports Business Journal’s 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award. Frequent references to baseball’s role as a social institution. The need to preserve hope and faith in as many markets as possible each year. How baseball is a metaphor for life.

But Selig’s remarks served as a microcosm for a legendary 45-year career in which he continually stood steadfast in pursuit of his goals, despite both internal and external pressures that combined to mark the most turbulent period in baseball’s history.

Selig outlined a long series of seemingly impossible challenges faced during his time in baseball, including returning baseball to Milwaukee after the Braves left for Atlanta in 1966, implementing a broad series of economic reforms, and restoring competitive balance following an entire generation of labor strife with the MLB Players Association.

“I dreamed of having a baseball life. I didn’t know how it would happen.”
BUD SELIG
MLB COMMISSIONER EMERITUS
Photos by: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
He likened his pursuit of a new team for Milwaukee as a “crusade” in which he “would not take no for an answer.” Similarly, he recalled his dogged pursuit and introduction of a historic realignment and an expanded playoff format in the 1990s that initially was so unpopular that Selig joked, “You would have thought I defiled motherhood and apple pie.”

“I’m often asked if I would have done anything differently,” he said. “I’ve given that considerable thought. There are a number of things I wish
hadn’t happened — obviously the cancellation of the 1994 World Series — but overall the answer is no. I’ve always tried to do what was in the best interests of the game.”

In closing, Selig called his role in the game a dream come true.

“I dreamed of having a baseball life,” he said. “I didn’t know how it would happen, or if it ever would. But that was my dream. It was firmly planted in my mind and when the right time came, I went after it. … What you see here tonight is the result of a little boy’s dream that came true.”

Hall of famer Hank Aaron, who played for Selig at the tail end of his career as a Brewer, introduced his close friend of 58 years. He touched on the unlikely bond formed in the late 1950s between an African-American from Mobile, Ala., and a Jew from Milwaukee.

“We all know that Bud can be as tough as nails,” Aaron said, “so I’ve called our friendship the Hammer and the Nail.”

Both received standing ovations before and after their remarks and exited the stage arm-in-arm.

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