The death of Bowie Kent Kuhn, Major League Baseball's fifth Commissioner, unleashed memories of and tributes to a man who watched over the game with a stern eye during the most consequential 15-year period in its history.While Kuhn's death at 80 sparked mostly sorrow, it also rekindled thoughts of a man who presented a dignified face for baseball during some turbulent and, in the end, highly influential times from 1969 and 1984. "He was a lawyer and erudite gentleman," remembered Atlanta general manager John Schuerholz, who built his first dynasty in Kansas City during the latter Kuhn years. "He was a man of the law, a man of order and a smart fellow." Indeed, Kuhn is being remembered not only as all of those things but as a man who loved baseball to his very core. "He was a good man, a good baseball man," said Cubs manager Lou Piniella, whose playing career with the Royals (1969-73) and Yankees ('74-'84) mirrored Kuhn's tenure as Commissioner. "I sympathize with his family, and I hope they're taking this as well as they possibly can. It's a shame. Bowie was a good Commissioner, and more important, a good person. "He was a very pleasant man, liked to talk baseball, loved the game of baseball and did some good things for our national pastime." To Hall of Famer and lifelong Dodger Tommy Lasorda, that love meant accepting a huge responsibility of being the game's caretaker, and the national pastime was in excellent hands when Kuhn was overseeing it. "Bowie was an outstanding Commissioner," Lasorda said. "He played a great part in seeing baseball grow and thrive. He made sure the game was run the right way." Added Yankees manager Joe Torre: "He certainly took his role on. He liked being Commissioner." Commissioner Bud Selig, who entered baseball through his ownership of the Milwaukee Brewers during Kuhn's tenure, saluted a man whose vision and leadership he has tried to emulate. "He led our game through a great deal of change and controversy. Yet, Bowie laid the groundwork for the success we enjoy today. He brought us expansion, night World Series games, and greater national television exposure," said Selig, who quickly instructed all clubs to observe this day of baseball mourning. Even those who knew Kuhn as an adversary -- indeed a very long list -- bowed to his unwavering belief that he always acted in the game's best interest. Don Fehr, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Assn., a union whose biggest battles were led by Marvin Miller against Kuhn, shared in mourning Kuhn's passing.
"A lifelong fan of baseball, Bowie dedicated many of his best years to the game," Fehr said in a statement.Ultimately, he earned the respect of everyone in baseball -- from his opponents in board rooms to some of the game's biggest superstars of that era. "He was a good steward for the game. [Free agency] is one of the most important things that's happened in the game," said Reggie Jackson, who was crowned Mr. October during Kuhn's stewardship. Atlanta president and chairman Terry McGuirk, allied with former Braves owner Ted Turner during his many clashes with Kuhn -- which ranged from jumping the gun on the cable television era with his Superstation 17 to charges of free-agent tampering -- said the former Commissioner "was the face of baseball." "Some of our experiences with him were humorous and some were serious," McGuirk said. "He was a factor in some very interesting times for the organization. But he was well respected by the Braves organization." Now that he has passed, all sides of any issues that were contested during his tenure can agree on one thing: Bowie Kuhn will be missed. "All of baseball mourns him," Selig said in his statement.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.