07/09/2002 4:33 pm ET
Selig at ease in hosting Town Hall
Commissioner responds to fans' online questions
By Barry Bloom / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig held his second-ever online chat Tuesday in the midst of the FanFest festivities, just hours before the All-Star Game at Miller Park in his own hometown.
Seeming at ease at the microphone and sounding somewhat glib as he responded to 18 different online questions, Selig entertained a live audience that included about 100 members of the media, Boston Red Sox owner Tom Werner, MLB President Bob DuPuy and Rob Manfred, MLB's vice president of labor relations and human resources.
"I like this format," Selig said after the 35-minute session spent answering e-mail from fans. "I feel very comfortable in it."
The 67-year-old Selig answered questions that ranged from baseball's current labor problems to Interleague play to contraction to whether the sport has any plans to expand internationally.
Selig skirted no issues, either in the chat session or in a brief question-and-answer session with reporters afterward.
Addressing the issue of steroid use by baseball players, Selig said he's in favor of mandatory drug testing because, "I'm concerned with the health and welfare of the current generation of players."
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He called the prospect of a work stoppage this season "a nightmare." But he added that some owners think the status quo is even worse. He reiterated a statement that he has made before, that six to eight clubs could go out of business if the economic system doesn't change.
"Nobody understands the heartache of a work stoppage more than I do," said Selig, former owner of the local Milwaukee Brewers. "We've had eight of these now. But we are in the horns of a very difficult dilemma."
Selig was understandably upbeat when he was asked online how he liked hosting this year's All-Star Game.
He said as a young man he attended the 1955 All-Star Game at old County Stadium, which closed in 2000 and has since been torn down. That season, Milwaukee was home to the Braves of the National League, who won 6-5. Twenty years later, as owner of the Brewers, then in the American League, he helped bring the 1975 All-Star Game back to County Stadium. The AL lost, 6-3.
County Stadium stood just adjacent to Miller Park west of downtown Milwaukee. It represented an era in which the All-Star Game stood alone and was not the focal point of a week chocked full of civic events.
"In 1975 it was just a game," Selig said. "We had dinner before the game and said goodnight afterward."
Selig said that many people who know him well have commented about how much pressure he has appeared to be under in the weeks leading up to Tuesday night's game.
"I just wanted everything to go well for MLB and the city of Milwaukee," he said. "It has gone beautifully."
The 2003 All-Star Game is scheduled for Comiskey Park in Chicago while the 2004 game has already been awarded to Houston, Selig responded to one online inquiry.
"After that, I have some hard decisions to make," he said in regards to what cities might host the All-Star Game in the future.
Selig maintains his regular office in Milwaukee where he rose to business prominence as an owner of automobile dealerships and brought baseball back to this city on the shores of Lake Michigan after the Braves left for Atlanta. Selig purchased the moribund Seattle Pilots and moved them to Milwaukee in time for the 1970 season.
In his role as Commissioner, Selig waxed eloquent about a variety of subjects Tuesday.
Selig told Web questioners that eliminating the designated hitter was not one of his most pressing problems. He recalled voting for the new rule in the early 1970s when it was formulated by Charlie Finley, the cantankerous late owner of the Oakland Athletics who also wanted to implement a designated runner and use multi-colored baseballs.
"It was the only thing Charlie Finley and I ever agreed on," Selig said.
He postured that baseball might someday expand to other nations outside the U.S., but seemed somewhat wistful when he said that "it probably won't happen under my watch."
Selig also seemed to enjoy teasing familiar baseball writers during the question-and-answer session, and responding to queries in a self-deprecating manner.
When told by a writer that he was confused by one of Selig's answers, the Commissioner quipped:
"Only one? I guess I did pretty well, then."
Barry M. Bloom is a regular contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or any of its clubs.