Selig never dared dream of Hall honor

The Signal - - MLB - Tom Hau­dri­court @Hau­dri­court USA TO­DAY Sports

For a man who

MIL­WAU­KEE ded­i­cated his life to base­ball, it is the un­ques­tioned pin­na­cle.

Bud Selig con­sid­ers his suc­cess in bring­ing Ma­jor League Base­ball back to Mil­wau­kee in 1970 his great­est in­di­vid­ual achieve­ment. And he re­mains quite sat­is­fied with the game’s trans­for­ma­tion that took place dur­ing his 22 years as com­mis­sioner.

But the Hall of Fame? That honor ex­ceeded his great­est ex­pec­ta­tions.

“Very few times in my life have I been speech­less, but I was speech­less af­ter get­ting the call from (Hall of Fame chair­woman) Jane Clark,” Selig said. “Ev­ery­where I go, it’s all peo­ple want to talk about. It has been all I’ve thought about. I’ve al­ready done 20 drafts of my speech. It means so much to me, in so many ways.”

How do you pack a life­time of base­ball into a 14-minute speech? Selig, who turns 83 on the day of his in­duc­tion, says he will do so. The theme of his speech will be “a long jour­ney,” and he al­most cer­tainly will get emo­tional de­liv­er­ing it, par­tic­u­larly upon men­tion­ing his late par­ents, who al­ways en­cour­aged him to pur­sue his first love, base­ball.

Selig made it his mis­sion to bring base­ball back to his home­town af­ter the Braves bolted for At­lanta af­ter the 1965 sea­son. It took him five years to suc­ceed, and there were many times along the way when he thought the bat­tle was lost.

One week be­fore the start of the 1970 sea­son, Selig and his group of in­vestors were awarded the Seat­tle Pi­lots out of bank­ruptcy. The Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers were born.

“We were down to the end,” Selig said. “I think if Seat­tle filed, it was over.”

As owner of the Brew­ers, Selig be­gan to gain fa­vor and power among his peers. He never turned down a task or re­quest, no mat­ter how dif­fi­cult. He be­came the log­i­cal suc­ces­sor when Fay Vin­cent was ousted as com­mis­sioner by own­ers in 1992, and Selig over­saw some of the game’s dark­est mo­ments, such as the can­cel­la­tion of the 1994 World Se­ries and the so-called steroid era af­ter the turn of the cen­tury.

But Selig also guided the game to great pros­per­ity, grow­ing it from a $1 bil­lion in­dus­try to $9 bil­lion (and now $10 bil­lion). He paved the way for in­creased rev­enue shar­ing, long-awaited and much-needed la­bor peace, ex­panded play­offs, in­ter­league play and many other ini­tia­tives.

That ca­reer put Selig in the on-deck cir­cle for Coop­er­stown, but he still had trou­ble com­ing to grips with the honor. He re­called a con­ver­sa­tion with friend John Schuer­holz, also elected to Coop­er­stown on the To­day’s Game Era bal­lot, be­fore an in­tro­duc­tory me­dia ses­sion.

“I said, ‘Johnny, think about this: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Branch Rickey, Jackie Robin­son, Wil­lie Mays, Stan Mu­sial, Hank Aaron, Ted Wil­liams … and you and me’ ” Selig said. “He stared off into space, and I stared off into space. That was the end of the con­ver­sa­tion. There was noth­ing more to say.”

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