It's out with interim for commissioner Selig Six years later, he'll accept full-time role

July 08, 1998|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

DENVER -- Interim commissioner Bud Selig all but acknowledged yesterday that he will accept the role of permanent commissioner when baseball owners meet tomorrow in Chicago.

Selig, who has held the office on an interim basis since September 1992, clearly has the support of the required 75 percent of ownership. He resisted earlier attempts, but finally agreed last month to a regular term. His approval tomorrow at a special ownership meeting at the O'Hare Airport Hilton Hotel is considered a formality.

Though Selig tried to sidestep the question yesterday, he let the commissioner out of the bag when he was asked if he hoped his "second term" would be less eventful than the first.

"I'll tell you Thursday," he said, then lowered his voice, "but the answer is yes."

Of course, in his term as interim commissioner, Selig presided over the labor dispute that led to the strike of 1994 and the first cancellation of the World Series in 90 years. He obviously welcomes the chance to create a more positive legacy and believes the game is on the threshold of a new economic era. "Unless there is a significant interruption before the turn of the century, I think that we'll see a golden renaissance that will surprise everybody," said Selig, who will pass on control of his Milwaukee Brewers to his daughter, Wendy Selig-Prieb.

The sport already has made a surprisingly speedy recovery from the public backlash that followed the ugly three-year labor war. Television ratings have improved. Attendance is back to pre-strike levels. New stadium construction has had a huge impact on the economic health of several franchises.

Those factors, along with the exciting storylines that have emerged during the 1998 season, have fueled a baseball-wide renewal that Selig had trouble envisioning during the labor war.

"The comeback has been remarkable," Selig said. "That is a tribute to the remarkable nature of the game, because it is so intrinsically good."

The sport has undergone a series of major changes during Selig's interim tenure, including realignment, the accompanying advent of the three-tiered playoff system, two expansions and the introduction of interleague play.

He said one of the major challenges of the next few years will be to create a new divisional alignment that will ease the scheduling problems that have come with the interleague experiment.

"The only cure for some of these problems is some form of realignment," Selig said.

That apparently does not mean another attempt to impose the radical plan proposed last year by Kansas City Royals chairman David Glass, which would have reassigned up to 16 teams.

"I don't think we'll ever get back to that," he said. "That produced so many problems. If we're going to do another realignment, it has to deal with the scheduling problems that we've experienced."

The biggest challenge, however, may be the one that has faced the industry for the past 30 years -- finding a way to maintain the labor truce that has existed since both sides realized the damage they had done to the game in 1994.

"There is no margin for error, starting with me," Selig said. "We can't fall back into the behavior patterns of the past 30 years on either side. If we were foolish enough to do that, all of that LTC baggage will come back. As horrible as 1994 was, if it benefits the next generation or two, we can at least justify what happened. If we don't learn from history, it's our fault."

Pub Date: 7/08/98

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