October 19, 2019

The Bud Selig Statue

August 10, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

The Milwaukee Brewers were brought back to life by Bud Selig and no one has done more for baseball in the second half of the 20th century–in Milwaukee that is–than Selig.  So having a statue to Selig outside Miller Park in Milwaukee–alongside Robin Yount and Hank Aaron??–what the heck, why not.  He tried to contract the Minnesota Twins so that Milwaukee would have a bigger media market, but from the perspective of a Wisconsin fan, the statue makes sense.  But the larger question that will be asked in time is whether the statue belongs in Cooperstown, NY.

I enjoyed Andrew Zimbalist’s 2006 book on Selig, In the Best Interests of Baseball. As you age it is good for your mental agility to read things that may be anathema to every thing you think and believe.  I came away convinced that Selig had done many good things to restore competitive balance to baseball.  Given the heavy skewing of the game toward the rich during the 1980’s and 90’s, it was a breath of fresh air to see that Selig’s self interest as a small market owner coincided with those of many other baseball fans.

Selig has also done as much as anyone to modernize the structures of the game and bring it into the 21st century.  The game of baseball came to prominence when most Americans lived in rural areas and open fields in which baseball could be played were plentiful.  Modern life answers to different masters now and it will not go back to those idyllic origins from which our country and favorite sport sprang.  So for baseball to to maintain a healthy economic niche, it will depend upon television and other evolving modern electronic media for its popularity.  The 21st century media world is changing so quickly it is difficult to predict what form it will take next, but Bud Selig has done as much as anyone in American sports to get baseball out ahead of the curve whatever it may look like.

MLB, Inc. may seem like a grasping economic leviathan that wants to eat your rotisserie league in the off-season with charges for access to its baseball statistics.  But whether the internet continues to level the economic playing field or not, baseball will distribute media revenues among major league teams in a remarkably progressive way thanks to work done by Selig.  Yes,  Selig and the other baseball owners are cool with raking as many chips in as they can get away with, that is clear, but if you limit the question to that of a fan and the playing of the modern game, Selig has done well to increase its popularity and give every franchise a chance to prosper and compete.  Whether they do so has become more and more a matter of each franchise’s will and vision than it was twenty years ago.

The current economic malaise has not gone away as fast as anyone hoped and you may want to write your congressman/woman about that, but Baseball is not hurting and Bud Selig has done as much as anyone to lift the sport and all of its teams out of harms way.  So will he be recognized for that when the Bud Selig statue is unveiled or just his narrow self-interests in bringing baseball back to the beer capital?

There have been few baseball commissioners to avoid controversy.  That is being kind.  The truth of the matter is that few baseball commissioners have avoided besmirching their good names and that of the sport generally.  But those commissioners–who like Selig–served long terms are in the Hall of Fame even if they got a black eye for his racial insensitivity and other things.  Landis, Chandler, Frick and Kuhn area all there and it is hard to point to anything noteworthy that Chandler or Frick did in retrospect.  Kuhn, like Selig, has many detractors, but is there nonetheless, largely because he saw the sport through tough times.

Selig has done no less, so maybe the artist who was commissioned to create the larger than life Bud Selig may yet get another call for a likeness of the Auto Dealer King of the upper Midwest.  Just don’t put him anywhere near the World Series exhibits, because the asterisk there in 1994 is all his and there is nothing anyone can do to take that away from him.  Yet when they unveil the Selig statue outside Miller Park in a few days, the baseball world will be saying for the most part that it has healed from that wound.  Ultimately the question becomes whether anyone outside of Wisconsin will ever lift a tankard and for all of baseball say, this Bud is for you.

Comments

3 Responses to “The Bud Selig Statue”
  1. Jeff Katz says:

    The very thought makes me ill, but Ted may be correct. If Bowie Kuhn is in the Hall of Fame, why not Bud? Baseball has always paid undue respect to its “leaders,” whitewashing the most egregious behavior and repackaging it as “innovation,” “vision” and “in the best interest of baseball.”

  2. Dave Johnson says:

    “. . . it is hard to point to anything noteworthy that Chandler or Frick did in retrospect.”

    Chandler only shepherded baseball through integration, despite a 15-1 vote by the MLB owners against integration. He had a good idea it would cost him his job and it did.

    To me, that’s pretty noteworthy.

  3. Ted Leavengood says:

    Chandler’s Biography was, Heroes, Plain Folks and Skunks. I am just plain folks and don’t pretend to know it all. My apologies to Governor Chandler whose courage on racial issues also extended to being the only southern governor to call out the National Guard to support the integration of Kentucky public schools.

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