A number of years have passed since I watched my first ballgame, it was on a black and white screen, it was 1954 and the team was the NY Giants. I wasn’t a Giant fan, but my father, an Irish immigrant, who never had played or rooted prior to 1954, decided the Giants were his team. I had been a Dodger fan for perhaps, maybe, possibly, a whole year.
Much has changed since those days of eight teams in the American League and eight in the NL. The majority of games are now under the lights, including unfortunately the post season. In the ‘50s’ the World Series ended roughly 10 days after the season ended. One team from the AL and one from the NL finished the season on top of a field of eight, unless it was 1951 when baseball needed a three game playoff. It sometimes happened. There was not a divisional round (best of 5) or a Championship round (best of 7) to decide the contestants for the ‘Series’. The 154 games stretching from April to the end of September were intended to do that.
Many of the changes in the game happened before 1992, most in my opinion were not in the interest of the fans. But what did happen in 1992, was the owners of the Major League teams installed Allan Huber Selig (Bud) as the interim Commissioner of Baseball. Selig fit the profile of the Commissioner the owners needed, an owner himself and an avid opponent of existing Commissioner Fay Vincent. After an 18-9 vote of ‘no confidence’ Vincent resigned and ‘Bud’ Selig was the Commissioner of Baseball. The Baseball Barons had in the ninth Commissioner of Baseball one of their own.
The change in the balance of power between the players and ownership led to the strike that cancelled the 1994 World Series and has had a great influence on the animosity between the parties that still exists today.
One of the changes instituted under Selig was the restructuring of the leagues to accommodate expansion; the new division (Central) created a new component to the playoffs …the wildcard. This is in my estimation a Selig win.
The largest failure of ‘Bud’ Selig was his failure to respond to the proliferation of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) that will always be the defining event of the Selig era as the commissioner of baseball (no caps intended). Selig’s performance at the 2005 House Committee Hearings was an embarrassment to baseball, after 10 years of turning a blind eye to the proliferation of PEDs in the game, Selig stuttered and sweated his way to finger pointing at Donald Fehr and Gene Orza. He absolved himself of responsibility by relating the minor league testing program instituted under his watch. Was Selig right, yes, the MLBPA would have opposed any effort by the commissioner to initiate steroid testing. Not even trying was the failure. ‘Bud Selig’ is reaching the end of his time as the Baseball Commissioner, in my mind he has been without a doubt an owner’s toadie and the worst commissioner in the history of the game. The division between Baseball and MLBPA is largely a result of his allegiance to the owners who own him. During his last two years in office he has the opportunity to make restitution for his past 18 years, but what ever positive that he does accomplish will never balance the books on the damage done.