Milwaukee Talks: Bud Selig
"Baseball is a social institution," Allan H. "Bud" Selig said at the end of our Milwaukee Talks interview in his 30th-floor office at 777 E. Wisconsin Ave. last week. And whatever the critics may say about him, it is clearly a sentiment Selig values.
Selig, who has served as the acting or official commissioner of Major League Baseball since 1992, cherishes the game of baseball and what it means to a community, particularly a community like Milwaukee. And he also cherishes a good story. The commissioner told us several during our talk -- about crying in the upper deck at County Stadium after a pennant-clinching Hank Aaron home run in 1957, about his quest to bring baseball back to the city after the Braves left for Atlanta, and about the changes he's helped usher into the sport over the last 13 years.
Enjoy this latest edition of Milwaukee Talks with Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.
OMC: You were born here and have lived most of your life here. What is it about Milwaukee that keeps you here?
Bud Selig: Well, I've had a lot of opportunities (to leave), obviously. One of the things I debated about while taking the commissioner's job was the fact that I have my whole family here, I was born and raised here, I haven't lived anywhere else. ... This is home. Most of my family is here, now Wendy and Laurel (Prieb) and my little granddaughter Natalie have moved to Phoenix, (he's) running our West Coast office now. But other than that, everybody else is here. It has been my home for 71-plus years, so I didn't see any reason to change.
OMC: What are some of your earliest memories of baseball here? Was it the Braves or the old Milwaukee Brewers?
BS: It was the old Brewers, Borchert Field. My mother was actually the person who got me started in baseball, and we went to Borchert Field a lot. We spent a lot of days -- actually, Herb Kohl and I used to go to a lot of games together. It was quite a ballpark, to say the least, a wonderful Triple-A park. I can tell you all the players that played there, and it was there that my great interest in baseball started. And, of course, I had already become a Major League Baseball fan, so my trips to Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park started in the late '40s, too.
OMC: Were you a Cubs fan?
BS: I was, and also a Yankees fan, but it had to do with the Brewers. The Brewers had an outfielder in 1945 by the name of Herschel Martin. He was my favorite player, and he was sold to the New York Yankees. As a result of that, I became a New York Yankees fan, and of course I became a huge Joe DiMaggio fan. So, I spent the next seven years of my life being an intense Yankees fan, which many people today would find unusual. Until the Braves came to Milwaukee, and then I became a great Braves fan.
OMC: What was it like when the Braves left?
BS: When they came, just to back up a bit, I can remember Herb Kohl and I were just freshman in college. We had come home and here was this new, beautiful, brick stadium going up. After all the trips to Wrigley Field, Comiskey Park, and my mother had taken me to Yankee Stadium, Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds -- all the sudden here is Milwaukee's ballpark. They were exhilarating years.
I was a 22-year-old kid in 1957, and I had enrolled in UWM in an accounting course. It's the only course I ever took that I was bored ... but I was driving by County Stadium that fateful night, and I had never cut a class in my four years of college. I was a very conscientious student. But I had to see this game, so I went and bought a ticket. They had single seats left and I sat in the upper deck. Hank Aaron hit a home run off of Billy Muffett, a St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher, to win the game in the 11th inning. ... But I remember that when they carried Hank Aaron off (the win clinched the 1957 pennant), as a kid sitting in the upper deck, I cried. So now all the sudden, seven, eight years later, they're going to leave? And I'm still a kid, 29 years old. Just a shock.
The Braves thing broke my heart, and it was a painful lesson. But it also taught me about baseball. It makes an enormous impact on a community. ... People tend to forget it sometimes, and they take it for granted. It's just an enormously important factor.
OMC: Why didn't baseball want to come back to Milwaukee?
BS: The Braves owners -- Bill Bartholomay, who today is a very close friend of mine -- did a good job of predicting this wasn't a major-league market. Lake to the east, nothing much to the west and the north, two teams 90 miles away. Warren C. Giles, president of the National League, said "Look, they can go to Chicago for baseball. It's only 90 miles away." And they believed it. It was wrong, but they believed it. ... But if the Seattle thing failed (the Pilots moving to Milwaukee in 1970) -- life is funny because it hangs on little threads -- I think we were probably done for.Page 1 of 3 (view all on one page)
Jon D. said: Aw cut KR taxpayer some slack. Everybody knows we would be better off with that dilapidated third-world shack of a stadium still sitting there telling the sports world what a bunch of dumb backwards hicks we are. At least we could save $50 a year.
Lawrence said: Hey, Taxpayer, Co Hwy KR, wow-sorry to bust in to your dreamworld and break the secret that the sportsworld is a reflection of society...Let me tell you a big secret-athletes are human. Every decade has their version of the steriods scandal so get over it and get off your soapbox about being offended by the game....give me a break.
Taxpayer, Co Hwy KR said: What a creampuff piece. "Gosh, Mr. Selig, what a nifty office you have. And a swell job." This moron (I cannot think of any more apt descript) has successfully driven fans in my age group - the group that would have continued to support the sport for another three decades - to forget about it. The labor disputes and long strikes, the revolving drug issues, obnoxious "spoiled brat" super-players (methinketh Kenny Rogers, TX Rangers, punching the tv cameraman twice, for one very recent example), and the general owners attitude vs the taxpayers is not any business model I am familiar with. Hell, Bud could be successfully helping the Roman Catholic Bishops dodge the sexual abuse scandals, he is so damn slick. MKE will forever be haunted by that "Blue Hole" in the Menominee Valley. Very blue, if the methane deposits decide to percolate to the surface.
Cozen Beguile said: Bud is one of the smartest cozens I know. Talk about a wolf in sheeps clothing! Go on take the money and run. Woo.. Hoo!
Ryan said: Miller Park was worth every penny.
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