Bud Selig has played the villain, the victor and everything in between during his 22-year tenure as the commissioner of Major League Baseball.
Being reviled by fans might as well be written into the job description of the commissioners of all major sports leagues, but as Selig’s term comes to an end, it’s not difficult to remember all of the good that he did for baseball. Selig came by Angel Stadium on Wednesday as part of his farewell tour and talked about his past, the present and where the future of baseball is headed.
The future is playing centerfield at the Big A.
"From everything I’ve heard about Mike Trout from everybody, we’re lucky," Selig said. "Mike Trout is special and he’s a great on the field guy and just as big off the field. If he is the coming icon of this next generation, I’d be very, very happy."
But Selig will miss the player who Trout is taking over for. Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter came into the league in 1995, only one year after Selig was named the permanent commissioner, "acting" was removed from his title. It’s bittersweet to see Jeter go, but Trout is the type of once-in-a-generation player who has the same draw and marketability as Jeter.
"I spoke with Derek, we’ve been lucky that he’s been the face of our sport. We were kidding at All-Star Game, saying we came in together and went out together," he said. "He’s a guy, as great as he is on the field, he’s better off the field. He reminds me of Henry Aaron. We’re lucky, the great icons we’ve had have really been good."
Selig is very aware of his legacy as a commissioner, and the mark he will leave on baseball. Selig gave us the wild card, interleague play, a pair of expansion teams and he was influential in the development of several new ballparks.
But Selig is quick to acknowledge those that helped along the way, some who played bigger roles than you might think.
Years after Jackie Robinson’s number was retired, it was Ken Griffey Jr., who came up with the idea to all don No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day.
"I have to give Ken Griffey, Jr. credit. He called me years later, on a Sunday night, and asked can we all wear 42, and I told him I needed to think about it until Monday morning," he said. "I give him credit, so today when you watch, and I know how much it means to the Robinson family and everybody else, my friend Henry Aaron comments, everybody wearing 42, those are two things that will standout in my mind."
Former Scioscia camper now in the outfield for the Marlins
There will be black eyes on the terms of each and every commissioner, but now isn’t the time to debate Selig’s term. Ultimately, he wants to be known as commissioner who had a great amount of passion and integrity for the game and for the job.
"Some days a lot, and other days I wonder what the hell I’m doing," he said. "But, the one thing I tell people all the time, first ingredient to this job is a passion for the sport. You can’t do this job if you don’t care. I heard somebody say the other day after someone questioned my passion, "he’d pull a double-header every day if he could" and he’s probably right. At home, I watch all 15 games. I watch the Angels a lot as a matter of fact.
"So, the only answer I can give is I just had my 80th birthday, and I said that night very briefly, this has been an incredible journey for me. When I was a kid in Milwaukee where I live, I thought I was going to be a history professor. Somebody told me that some day I was going to do this, and it’s special. Yes, it’s been a tough job, but that’s part of life. To me, it’s been a privilege to be this generation’s commissioner."