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August 19, 2004

Allan H. "Bud" Selig

August 19, 2004
An Interview With:

FRED WILPON: Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman. It was an honor for me to make the nomination before ownership to extend the Commissionership of Bud Selig. And we announce that Buddy's commissionership has been extended three years through 2009 by a unanimous vote of the clubs, enthusiastically unanimous.
I've been in baseball for more than 25 years, and in that time, I've never known anybody more dedicated to the sport or devoted to the game. He's done a fantastic job as commissioner, and I believe that everyone, club personnel, players, fans, everybody recognizes his contribution to the game. Whether it's been for labor peace, revenue sharing, improved competitive balance, international growth, interleague play, the wild-card, or industry efforts to better promote our market and our game, Bud Selig has absolutely been the common denominator.
His efforts over the last 12 years have resulted in a sport that is stronger, healthier and more exciting for our fans. Baseball is in great shape in today's market because of Buddy's leadership, and I am very delighted that that he has agreed to stay on as our commissioner through the 2009 season.
BUD SELIG: Thank you, Fred. Appreciate it and I also want to thank John Moores, Tom Werner, all of the other owners, I appreciate it.
I said back in September 1992, I told my wife when I got on off the plane, she asked how long it would be, and I said "two to four months." It's got to be the longest two to four months in history.
It certainly has been a very eventful period. It's been a great series of up-and-downs. But everything that's been done, there was not only a reason but a long-term goal. Certainly we have much to be done. The sport as it exists today is far different than it was in 1992, and I believe much to the better. The economic landscape has been changed because it had to be changed. All one has to do is look at the standings this morning and understand how important the wild-card is, even though there are many people back in 1993 and 1994 didn't think so. Today it's almost incomprehensible that we wouldn't have it. And plus interleague play and a series of other things, that there was more resistance to change, and many times for the wrong reasons we have come a long way.
And so, tomorrow we go over 55 million in attendance, maybe even today. And all of you heard me say over and over, this sport has never been more popular. It has a great future ahead of it. We should never be afraid to change when change is necessary. We face competition, and we have to be willing to adjust to that competition.
So, as I said to the clubs today, I'm very honored by their faith. This is something that they did themselves. Those of you who know me well, I said to them and I would say to you, to me, I can't imagine a higher honor than being the Commissioner of baseball. And with it goes an enormous sense ever responsibility.
The other things that we handled today, we had a report from Rob Manfred on baseball's advanced media; an owner's report by Rob Manfred and Jonathan Mariner; a legislative affairs report by John McHale; World Cup report by Bob DuPuy and approval of the World Cup concept. Bob gave a relocation report, just merely an update.
And I'm happy to say that I think many of the things that we have done, we approved today, the Baseball Channel. I'm going to ask Tim Brosnan when I'm done today to get up and talk to you about the channel. I think in light of all the changes, of all the things that have happened The Baseball Channel is another in an ongoing series of changes to help grow the sport and make it more popular. So this I think is a very, very, very important announcement.

Q. You've spoken and many of your peers have spoken about all of your accomplishments so far in your administration and you're now in through 2009. Looking ahead, what would you like to see the sport accomplish between now and 2009?
BUD SELIG: Well, I think about that often because as I've often said, when we keep the focus of sport on the field, that's when good things happen. I think that's really my job, to keep the focus on the field, continuous marketing in every way. We were slow as a sport. I've often said this, I'll say it again. We were like a dinosaur, slow to change, slow to market. We had such a good game that we took so much for granted. We can't do that anymore. We need to continue the internationalization process, technology is changing which is why the TV channel I think is so crucial.
We are doing well right now. The sport has never been more popular. There's no question about that. But, we need to continue that process; and therefore, we need to do everything we can to avoid taking our eyes off the field. Obviously, during the next three and a half years, we'll have another labor negotiation, another TV negotiation, and hopefully that can be done in the same way that the last ones were done, quietly, efficiently so that we don't have anything that takes away the focus from where it is today, which obviously our fans are not only enjoying themselves, but turning out in record numbers.
But the competition among other forms of entertainment and other sports will just intensify, and we have to be smart enough to always stay ahead of that curve, but never damaging the sport itself or its tradition, and I don't think we've done that. I know in the past that all of us have had some agreements and disagreements, there were some people that thought the world was going to come to an end when we went to three divisions and a wild-card; and I mean that sincerely, I don't say that critically. Because this sport was a dinosaur; it didn't change. And then when you tried to change it, it obviously had a lot of critics.
Interleague play was the same thing; oh, it was going to take away from the World Series. Revenue sharing was something that tore the industry apart internally, to say nothing of our relationship with the Players Association. And all of the other things that happened as a result of that, we were able to do it, not only were we able to accomplish it, but we did it peacefully. There were times in the 70s and 80s when you had owners tearing owners apart, owners tearing commissioners apart, owner's tearing the Players Association apart. The fact is that the residue of all of that improved the sport. It's my job to make sure we don't full back into those patterns.

Q. Why is the Expos decision taking so long and are you going to move to D.C.?
BUD SELIG: Well, the question is flawed twice, so let me answer it.
Why is it taking so long? Well, it depends on who thinks it's taking too long. Well, would you have liked to have it done fast? Yes. But you're moving a franchise into markets where stadiums don't exist, where there's much work to be done, where the areas competing for it themselves have a lot of work to do, ongoing. Let me make that point: They are still doing a lot of work.
And so while we'd like to get it done, obviously it would be a good thing for all of us to get it done, but the fact of the matter is, it's important that we get it done right. As to where we're going, that's for another day and we'll discuss that when the time is appropriate. Relocation is going to come and make a recommendation to me and we'll go from there.

Q. Are you leaning in a certain direction?

Q. Is there a leading candidate?
BUD SELIG: At the moment, I'm waiting for their recommendation and then we'll go from there.

Q. As you look back over this short two to four-month period that grew into an eternity --
BUD SELIG: My wife reminds me of that often, by the way.

Q. -- the darkest moment and the proudest moment.
BUD SELIG: The day that I had a series of managers and general managers, particularly general managers, calling me in 1994 telling me that they thought we had past the point. They were very concerned about the players, they could not get back in shape. I had an interesting number of managers, a lot of whom I got to know over the years, and I agonized for a week or two before. I remember I talked to Don Fehr about it. There were owners, people who begged me not to make at announcement because they said "you'll be the person remembered as," but we had commitments to TV networks. We had commitments to our fans in other cities who were playoff cities. They don't know whether to print tickets. They don't know what to do. I remember talking to Don Harrington and Dave Montgomery who were handling that part of it for us. One can debate what happened in '94, and if I ever have the opportunity to write a book, I guess I'll do that at the time, because there's a view that I have never really articulated the way I believe it was. The fact is that everything that we asked for, that this group has asked for in '95 is now part of our agreement. But that's for another day.
Sad, I go home that night and I sat after dinner and I replayed every World Series that I can remember starting in 1945, Detroit and the Cubs. And it took me all night and the more I did it, the worse I felt. That had to be the lowest moment of my career. Hopefully you learn from those things, hopefully everyone learns from those things, and I believe we have.
Proudest moments, well, there are a series of them. There are so many right now, I can just tell you one story -- I worried about interleague play. I go back to Bill Veeck and Hank Greenberg -- well, actually, Jerome Holtzman tells me correctly, Veeck, Senior was really the first person we wanted interleague play 1922; that's how fast baseball moved, we got it done in '96. And I came home from an owner's meeting, and in those days I used to be worn out after three days, this one was pretty good. I sat and was still in County Stadium and everybody was down in Chicago. The Cubs were playing the Brewers. It was an interleague play game, and there was nobody left. Here I was, I was nervous; was it going to work; were Bill Veeck and Greenberg really right?
As confident as I was, I had the radio on in the ninth inning and I had Harry Caray on television and Bob Uecker on the radio and that's a twosome. The Brewers are winning 4-2 and Doug Jones was pitching, serving up all that slop that he did, and there were two outs and nobody on base. And Sammy Sosa batting 1-2 and Harry Caray said, "This is tremendous. How come it took the, so long? Listen to, Bob."
And Uecker said at the time, "Boy, this is really something. Interleague play is something." And I'm not ashamed to tell you, I cried.

Q. Delineate, you said World Cup concept was approved. Will it be more likely something that we will see in to 2005 or 2006?
BUD SELIG: Well, I think it's fair to say that it's 2006. The concept was approved. We've just run out of time. But the important thing is, it's another step in the internationalization of the game. I can tell you that when I was in Japan with Tampa and the Yankees this year, with the Mets back in 2000, the popularity is just remarkable. But we really need to intensify our efforts. That's another thing we were quite slow to do, but we picked the process up.

Q. You mentioned running out of time on the World Cup. Getting back to the Expos and fear of running out of time on that process?
BUD SELIG: Look, we stated what we are doing. I think Bob has articulated the position of the committee well, and I don't have any fear of doing that.
Remember, you're talking to somebody, by the way, and please don't read into, I got a team April 1st and we opened on April 7th. Yes, but there are adjustments, people make adjustments. Like I said, I'm not suggesting that it's going to take that long. (Laughter.) So don't get excited.
You guys from Washington just have one-track minds? Don't you have questions about anything else? Just kidding.

Q. You had said last year that you were pretty confident that your intention was 2006, the last year in your mind, what was it that the owner said that changed your mind?
BUD SELIG: I don't know about changing. Ron and I had this discussion in July at in Houston at a meeting and Ron asked the same question, and I asked him if he was happy or sad; I couldn't tell by the way he asked the question.
I meant what I said in last year in April. I said there were a lot of things in life that I wanted to do, and I wanted to be healthy enough to do them and so on and so forth. This is something that came from the owners. I had a series of owners who asked me after that time not to close my mind and they were a little surprised that I had said that.
Once they have articulated that, I believe that my responsibility and my feeling for the sport is such that I want to do what they think is in the best interests of the sport and what I think is in the best interests of the sport.
So, they were so unanimous and seemed to be no further indication on anybody's part that I finally felt it was the right thing to do.

Q. Wondering what you specifically would like to see out of the area that is ultimately picked, two-part question, and as you're overseeing this process a little bit more difficult given your friendship with Mr. Angelos?
BUD SELIG: No. 1, in the end, on all subjects, you do what's in the best interests of the sport. That's the way that I have been raised in the sport by people that I have and had great admiration, and I have a great affection for Peter Angelos, there's no question about that.
As far the moving of the franchise, the relocation committee knows what the ground rules are, and they have spent, as Bob DuPuy said today in his report, thousands of hours determining all of the qualifications of the various sites and until I have their report and their feelings, I don't think it's fair to comment.
Thank you.

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