Viewing entries tagged
MLB Hall of Fame


Bud Selig reaches pinnacle of baseball career by joining exclusive Hall of Fame family

Photo: Gregory J. Fisher/USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Gregory J. Fisher/USA TODAY Sports

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – As Bud Selig delivered his Baseball Hall of Fame induction speech Sunday afternoon, many of his friends and family were sitting front and center among the sizable crowd.

Seated on stage behind Selig was his new, extended family – those already admitted into the most exclusive club in baseball, including some of the greatest players in the game’s history. For someone whose path began as an excitable, avid young fan, it couldn’t have been more satisfying.

“This weekend, every Hall of Famer has been so warm with me,” Selig said before the ceremony at the Clark Sports Center. “I’ve known a lot of them for years, of course. The first thing they said was, ‘We’re proud that you’re now part of the family.’

“I heard that over and over again. In a great sense, I feel like I’m home.”

In his speech, Selig acknowledged those members of his new baseball family who traveled from far and wide to pay tribute to the new five-member class of inductees.

“I am honored to be in your presence,” said Selig, who was inducted on his 83rd birthday, the only Hall of Famer ever to go in on the date he was born. “On your shoulders, this game became part of the fabric of our country, and we are forever indebted to you.”

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

Selig was one of five inductees in the Class of 2017, joining longtime club executive and friend John Schuerholz as well as three former players, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez.

During his 22 years as commissioner of baseball, Selig participated in every induction ceremony, handing out bronze plaques to honorees. On the receiving end of baseball immortality this time, he admitted the feeling was profoundly different.

“Now, as I stand here at this moment, I am humbled,” he said in his speech. “I am deeply honored to receive baseball’s highest honor. I stand here amongst many friends, including the great Henry Aaron, my friend of 59 years, and one of the best and most decent and dignified people I have ever known."

Later, in a media session after the ceremony, Selig admitted to being nervous on stage, though he said that wasn't the reason he dropped his speech momentarily before making a quick recovery.

"Everybody kept asking me how I felt," he said. "I've given thousands of speeches, in all kinds of circumstances. I kept trying to insist I wasn't nervous but I was tense. I know that doesn't make a lot of sense but I made myself feel better.

"I wanted, in a short period of time, to really illustrate what had gone on for the last 22 or 23 years. I hope I did that. I keep using the word but I'll say again it was overwhelming. Was I nervous? Yeah, now I'll admit, I was nervous."

The theme of Selig’s 18-minute-plus speech, which took 32 drafts to construct to his satisfaction with outside help, was “a great journey,” and his life in baseball certainly qualified. The official start of that journey came when Selig spearheaded efforts to return baseball to his hometown after the Braves left Milwaukee for Atlanta following the 1965 season.

Despite his many accomplishments as commissioner, Selig has been unwavering that bringing the Brewers to Milwaukee out of bankruptcy in Seattle is the feat of which he is most proud.

“I made it my mission, my quest, and I devoted five long years in a relentless effort,” he said. “And that day when the Brewers arrived, March 31, 1970, will forever be one of the proudest days of my life.”

Selig paid tribute to three renown members of the Brewers who preceded him into the Hall of Fame – Robin Yount, Paul Molitor and Rollie Fingers. Yount and Molitor, who couldn’t attend the ceremony because he was managing the Minnesota Twins in a weekend series in Oakland, were inducted representing the Brewers. Fingers went in representing the Athletics but finished his great career in Milwaukee.

“Robin and Rollie and Molly represented the Brewers in so many ways,” Selig said in his speech. “You three were more than just players to me and the city of Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin. You are forever etched in the minds of Brewers fans. You are forever etched in the journey of my life.”

Selig also took time to acknowledge the man who bought the Brewers in 2005, Mark Attanasio, saying, “The Brewers and their fans throughout Milwaukee and Wisconsin are in good hands.”

Selig noted the turbulent times after he became interim commissioner in 1992 and the bitter labor wars that followed. The game was shut down two years later, leading to cancellation of the World Series, and Selig portrayed the game as a deeply divided civil war.

“Everywhere you turned, there was rancor and adversity,” he said. “Big markets versus small markets; American League owners versus National League owners; and worst of all, owners versus players. We were a game stuck neutral.

“We went through a terribly painful period to institute a new economic system. The 1994 strike was the most painful experience of my life.”

Under Selig’s guidance, the game shifted out of neutral to drive, then later to overdrive. Labor peace was achieved and there have been no more work stoppages. Revenue sharing helped smaller markets such as Milwaukee get their heads above water and paved the way for many initiatives that grew the game, such as expanded playoffs, interleague play and the World Baseball Classic.

“Success comes from working together,” he said. “The unprecedented success we have achieved over these past 25 years has come from ending the divide, from building harmony, and from working as one for the good of the game.”

Selig mentioned the one period for which he has received the most criticism of his commissionership – the so-called “Steroid Era” in which performance-enhancing drugs led to nearly superhuman offensive exploits. But, under advice from current baseball officials, he did not dwell on that topic.

“We desperately needed a drug-testing program, and we had to work together to get it done,” said Selig, who off stage reminded reporters that the program had to be collectively bargained with the players association, which for years fought testing.

“While the process was more difficult and time-consuming than I would have liked, in the end, baseball and the players association developed a program that is the gold standard for sports and business alike.”

Selig paid tribute to many baseball figures who have passed on, including bombastic New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

“We never agreed on anything in 40 years but we remained great friends during that entire time,” Selig said. “And he was incredibly cooperative during my tenure as commissioner.”

Selig acknowledged what he called “the single most important day in baseball history,” April 15, 1947, when Jackie Robinson broke the game’s color barrier. On that date 50 years later, Selig announced as commissioner that Robinson’s No. 42 would be retired permanently to honor his legacy.

At the end of his speech, Selig feted family members, past and present. Of wife Sue, he said, “She has been an extraordinary partner and helpful in every way.”

He paid tribute to his parents, Ben and Marie, who not only allowed his passion for baseball but nurtured and fostered it.

“If they were here today, they would be proud of this journey,” he said.

Selig concluded his remarks by repeating a closing line from a speech he gave at an awards dinner of baseball writers in New York City a few years back.

“That night, I said, ‘What you have seen here are a little boy’s dreams that came true,’” Selig said. “Thank you for this magnificent honor.”

The inductees were not shown their plaques in advance, and Selig was asked later if receiving his made it finally hit home that he indeed was going into the Hall of Fame.

"I had given them out for 22 years, and here I was getting one," Selig said. "It was quite a feeling. I kept drinking water to make sure this was all happening, to make sure my system was still functioning.

"It's an overpowering feeling."

The previous day, Selig was asked to recall fond birthdays from his past. He talked about his 15th, when his mother took him to New York to see a Broadway play and a game between the Indians and Yankees. Selig laughed about having the audacity of youth to think a birthday cake being rolled onto the field for New York manager Casey Stengel was actually for him. 

But, he agreed after the ceremony there would be no surpassing birthday No. 83.

"My mother was really the one who got me interested in baseball," he said. "My 15th birthday was just an amazing experience. But nothing can top this. I don't know what else to say other than it's a remarkable human experience."

Photo: Gregory J. Fisher/USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Gregory J. Fisher/USA TODAY Sports

Inscription on Selig’s plaque:

Allan Huber Selig


Commissioner from 1992 to 2015, the first seven years in acting capacity, before being formally named by unanimous vote among all 30 owners in 1998. Presided over an era of vast change to the game, on the field, while extending its breadth and depth off of it. Fostered an unprecedented stretch of labor peace, introduced three-division play and expanded the postseason. Under his leadership, umpiring was centralized and replay review was established. Celebrated the national pastime’s pioneering diversity by universally retiring Jackie Robinson’s No. 42. Bridge builder and devoted fan who returned baseball to Milwaukee as Brewers’ owner before serving as second-longest tenured commissioner.

Story by Tom Haudricourt, courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.


1 Comment

Selig, Kohl, Marcus and others bonded at UW fraternity before going on to greatness


Story by Tom Haudricourt, courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Photo: UW Digital Collections

Photo: UW Digital Collections

When Bud Selig steps to the podium next Sunday in Cooperstown, N.Y., to deliver his acceptance speech during induction ceremonies for the Baseball Hall of Fame, there will be many familiar faces in what is expected to be an enormous crowd.

One group of men will be viewed with particular fondness by Selig, linked by a unique bond that has endured for more than a half century. Herb Kohl, Steve Marcus and Lewis Wolff will be joined by others who first met as members of Pi Lambda Phi fraternity at the University of Wisconsin in the mid to late 1950s.

“All of his associates and fraternity brothers, we feel we’re getting in (the Hall of Fame), too,” Wolff said. “We identify with Bud so much.”

By any measure of future success, the group of young men who gathered daily at the Pilam fraternity house was an extraordinary bunch. There were those who went on to become prominent attorneys, businessmen, physicians and leaders of men in their communities but it went far beyond that with some. And it all started with childhood friends Selig and Kohl, who grew up on the West side of Milwaukee and stayed together through every level of education.

“We grew up a half block from each other,” said Kohl, whose family lived on 51st Boulevard. “We went to Sherman School together, then Steuben Junior High and Washington High School. Then it was on to UW. We were very close, so it was no surprise we ended up in the same fraternity.”

It’s difficult to imagine a pair of college roommates going on to greater things than Selig and Kohl, each destined for individual greatness.

Kohl would serve in the Army Reserve before getting his professional career started in financial investing, then the family grocery and department store businesses before buying the Milwaukee Bucks and going on to serve 24 years as U.S. senator from Wisconsin. Not a bad life path.

Selig would return to Milwaukee to work in the family car business but had little interest in making that his livelihood. An avid baseball fan, he made it his mission to return Major League Baseball to his hometown after the Braves bolted for Atlanta in 1965. Selig led the group that founded the Milwaukee Brewers five years later and went on to become commissioner of baseball, serving a 22-year term that morphed from turbulent to transformational.

As if that weren’t enough, Selig was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in December and will be inducted with four others on his 83rd birthday, gaining immortality in the sport he loves so dearly.

Marcus arrived in Madison from Milwaukee a year after Selig and Kohl, and was new to both cities. Marcus was born in Minneapolis but spent parts of his childhood in Ripon and Oshkosh, where he went to high school before his family moved to Milwaukee. He, too, pledged Pi Lambda Phi, where he quickly noticed Selig’s affinity for baseball.

“That’s about all he thought about,” Marcus recalled. “We’d come back to the fraternity house, especially in the spring, and he always had a baseball game on. In those days, it was just radio. He knew what games were being played and how to find them.”

Like Selig and Kohl, Marcus would return to Milwaukee and become a huge success, joining the entertainment and hotel corporation founded by his father, Ben (Selig’s father also was named Ben). He is chairman of the board of the Marcus Corporation, which owns or manages 895 movie screens in eight states as well as 17 hotels, resorts and other properties in nine states, including the venerable Pfister Hotel downtown.

Wolff, who arrived at UW that same year from St. Louis, said Selig and Kohl were more focused as students than he was initially.

“We were in the fraternity together but they were in the library most of the time,” Wolff said. “I didn’t know where the library was until I was a junior.

“From the day I met Bud, I told him he was the 15th man picked on a nine-man team, but he never missed a fraternity or college game in any sport. He was always there rooting. He had an unbelievable passion, especially for baseball, for somebody who wasn’t that active physically in it.”

Wolff, 81, was destined to make his mark as a baseball owner as well. He first launched a career as a real estate mogul in the Bay Area of northern California and was credited with the redevelopment and revitalization of downtown San Jose. He joined an ownership group that purchased the Oakland Athletics in 2005 and remained a managing partner until selling his share of the club last November.

The fraternity success stories from those years went on and on. Frank Gimbel would become a dogged legal prosecutor before switching sides to criminal defense attorney in Milwaukee. Known in town as “Mr. Clout, he also served many years as chairman of the Wisconsin Center District.

Bill Grinker went to Harvard Law and landed in New York City, where he became a successful director and consultant to the small business community. Mel Pearl returned home to Chicago and became senior partner of a huge law firm.

Not exactly the bunch of losers that partied all day and night at Delta Tau Chi fraternity in the movie “Animal House.”

“It is unique,” said Kohl, 82, whose younger brother, Allen, also was a fraternity member. “A lot of the guys have gone on to have very successful lives. We’ve stayed in touch with each other. We’ve had several reunions of that fraternity over the years. A bunch of them have been in Milwaukee. It’s always good to see everyone.”

There will be another reunion of sorts in a week at Cooperstown. Wolff is making the 3,000-mile journey from California on his private jet, stopping in Phoenix to pick up fraternity brothers Don Sandler and Jim Metz.

“It will be a long jaunt but it will be worth it,” Wolff said. “I would not miss this, period.

“He still stays in touch with so many of us. People are just drawn to Bud. He really was a born leader. If you stamped out a list of leadership, Bud’s name would be at the top.”

Wolff watched Selig exercise his leadership skills in getting UW football player Charlie Thomas, an African-American running back who played behind Heisman Trophy winner Alan Ameche, in their mostly Jewish fraternity. This was years before the Civil Rights movement reached its peak, and Wolff said Thomas’ proposed membership “was a big deal in those days.”

“Bud and a few of us thought he’d be great for the fraternity but he had to be voted in,” Wolff recalled. “Some of the guys were not excited about it. I remember Bud saying, ‘We’re going to stay here in this meeting as long as it takes, even if it goes into the next day, to settle this in a fair way.’ And, so, Charlie eventually was voted in, and we loved him.”

Selig called that night “an interesting experience” but never considered it controversial to bring Thomas into the all-white fraternity. He and Thomas had become good friends, spending nights together in the library and stopping on the way back to their rooms to eat burgers at a joint they called “Greasy George’s.”

“He was a wonderful human being; I loved Charlie,” said Selig, who long has considered the seminal moment in major-league history to be Branch Rickey integrating the game with Jackie Robinson.

“The guys really liked him. It wasn’t because he was a football player. He later became superintendent of all the suburban Chicago schools. He was a remarkable guy.”

Many years later, when Wolff owned the Oakland A’s, he often watched Selig work a room in similar fashion as commissioner. Selig became the consummate consensus builder, cajoling, pleading and often pestering owners until they saw things his way and voted as he desired.

“He could be very persuasive,” Wolff said. “That’s what made him a successful commissioner.”

Selig’s fraternity brothers watched him use those same skills to lead the charge to get Miller Park built when the future of the Brewers in Milwaukee was at stake in the late ‘90s. Kohl said Selig had become accustomed to getting his way as far back as the sixth grade, when the two friends were captains of peewee baseball teams that advanced to the league championship game.

“We were both undefeated and playing for the championship on a Saturday morning,” Kohl said. “We get to the field and we start warming up, and we see this big, tall guy, well over 6 feet tall, come in and start warming up.

“I said, ‘Selig, who is this guy?’ He says, ‘Well, my regular pitcher, Freddie, couldn’t make it, so we got this guy.’ I said, ‘Why isn’t Freddie here?’ He said, ‘Freddie wouldn’t drink his orange juice so his mother wouldn’t let him come.’ We had a big fight about it and Selig said, ‘Quit your whining and let’s play ball.’

“So, I relented and we did and, sure enough, this guy pitches a no-hitter against us and we lost, 9-0. Selig wanted to win so badly, he puts this ringer out there. I never saw the kid again. He disappeared after the game.

“So, fast-forward all those years later and I turn on the television, and Bud Selig has just become the commissioner. He’s holding a big press conference and he says, “My No. 1 responsibility is to protect the integrity of the game.” I looked at the TV and said, ‘This is the guy who brought the ringer to win the game in the sixth grade.’”

Asked about Kohl's account of that day, Selig smiled broadly and said, "Herbie loves telling that story. The only problem is it's not true."

Kohl, of course, was speaking with mock contempt about Selig's integrity. As longtime owner of the Bucks before selling the club three years ago, he knew the importance of a commissioner who looks out for the sport, not his own reputation and popularity. Selig took an early hit over the labor war that led to the cancellation of the ’94 World Series and caught flak about overseeing the game during the so-called “Steroid Era” but Kohl said his childhood friend kept his eye on the ball.

“He devoted his life to baseball in various ways,” said Kohl, who also hopes to attend Selig’s induction ceremony. “First of all, getting the team back to Milwaukee. He was a great owner. Then he became commissioner and did a wonderful job.

“He saw the sport through some of the darkest days that weren’t his fault. He grew the game in every way and left it in outstanding shape. He has done great things in the game of baseball and wonderful things for Milwaukee. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and I’m very happy for him, and very proud of him.”

Kohl and Selig remained loyal not only to their fraternity buddies but also their alma mater through philanthropy. Kohl provided the lead gift for the Kohl Center athletic facility and founded the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation, which provides grants to students and teachers. Selig established the Allan H. Selig Chair in History in 2010, has helped create scholarships for students and serves as a guest lecturer in the history department.

More than 60 years after an extraordinary group of young men bonded at Pi Lambda Phi, inspired each other and set their course for future success, many will unite in Cooperstown in support of Selig. According to Marcus, 82, it is the least they can do to celebrate the ultimate achievement of one of their own.

“That says more about Buddy than it does about the rest of us,” said Marcus, who will make his first trip to Cooperstown. “When he became the commissioner, he could have put all of us in his rear-view mirror. And he never did that. He could have put Milwaukee in his rear-view mirror. He didn’t do that, either.

“He insisted on staying here and has been a major contributor to the community in many ways. It was amazing that he laid down that marker and it actually happened, and that we would be the home base of Major League Baseball. When you think about how difficult the beginning days of his commissionership were, it’s really amazing. But all he went through in getting problems straightened out, and how much patience and determination that took, it helps you understand why this is so well deserved.

“He’s very excited about it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him quite as excited about anything, except maybe becoming a great grandfather.”

Selig is beyond thrilled that so many of his fraternity brothers will be on hand to witness his induction into the Hall of Fame. But, looking back at those years when a group of young men united before going on to great success, he said there was no way to forecast what lied ahead.

“We were just kids,” he said. “I can’t give you any logic for it. Herb and I were big sports fans. We talked about things that everybody talked about.

“Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine this would happen. It turned out to be an amazing group.”

1 Comment