Budig vows to take lead as fans' man

June 09, 1994|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Sun Staff Writer

CINCINNATI -- University of Kansas chancellor Gene Budig was off to a promising start yesterday as the new American League president.

As he was formally introduced to the media at the owners' meetings, Budig told of his enthusiasm for the designated hitter rule and his support for baseball's realigned divisions. He even said it would be nice to speak to fans and find out what they want from a league president.

This was a speech to win the hearts and minds of every AL owner.

"What fans think about the game is important," Budig said. "I want to seek input in some systematic way. Ultimately, the game belongs to the fans."

Budig, 55, had been widely rumored as the leading candidate to replace Bobby Brown, a former major-league player and Fort Worth, Texas, cardiologist who began his term in 1984.

Others linked to the job included former NBA team owner Peter Bynoe and Larry Lucchino, former president of the Orioles.

Brown told the AL owners more than a year ago that he wanted to step down. It took that long for the search committee to come up with a successor who had credentials as a baseball man and administrator and had no detractors among the owners.

Budig claims a baseball background as a young sportswriter on a newspaper in his home state of Nebraska and as a member of the Kansas City Royals' board of directors.

Executives from four different AL teams, including Orioles vice chairman Joe Foss, came to nod approval as Budig was introduced to the media. Not surprisingly, the new man's comments on issues ranging from labor strife to the fans' enduring love affair with baseball seemed to square with those of the owners.

On the DH, Budig said: "It has enlivened baseball. It has extended the careers of some of baseball's greatest hitters, George Brett being an excellent example."

On labor strife: "No one wants a work stoppage. Everyone would suffer. I am hopeful a meaningful solution is forthcoming."

Lucchino, who remains in baseball as a consultant to the Florida Marlins and as a member of the Orioles board of directors, acknowledged that he considered the job. He said he removed himself from consideration around Opening Day.

"My name was mentioned early on -- I did not pursue it," he said.

Lucchino declined to discuss his reasons, but sources close to him said the AL job might have been appealing if it could lead to a shot at commissioner. That prospect seemed to dim in recent weeks, with rumors the owners intend to offer the job to U.S. Sen. George Mitchell.

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