NEW YORK -- The late George Steinbrenner should be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Commissioner Bud Selig said unequivocally on Monday night, just after a large plaque was unveiled in honor of "The Boss" in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium.Steinbrenner passed away at the age of 80 this past July 13.
"I don't like to comment on these things, but do I think George should be in the Hall of Fame? Of course I do," Selig told a group of reporters assembled in the rear of the press box during the third inning of Monday night's game pitting the Yankees against the Rays in a battle for first place in the American League East, a game the Yankees won, 8-6."I'm sure that will [generate] some controversy, but you asked me a question, and that's my opinion," Selig said, adding that Steinbrenner left an indelible impression on the sport. "The reason that I say that is, the sport has never been as popular as it is today. ... I do think [we've] made a lot of adjustments in the last 18 to 20 years, and I give George a lot of credit for that." Since Steinbrenner passed the age of 65, he has been eligible for election by various Veterans Committees but has never been placed on the ballot. The restructured committee overseeing Major League Baseball's expansion era is voting this year, opening another possibility. The Hall of Fame doesn't have a long history of honoring executives. Only 30 have been enshrined, including four Commissioners -- Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Happy Chandler, Ford Frick and Bowie Kuhn. Two Yankees executives from bygone years have made the grade: general managers Ed Barrow and George Weiss. The short list of owners includes Charles Comiskey, Barney Dreyfus, Clark Griffith, Walter O'Malley, Bill Veeck and Tom Yawkey. O'Malley, the Brooklyn Dodgers owner who raised the ire of a city when he moved the team to Los Angeles, was the last owner to be elected by the Veterans Committee, in 2008. Even Jacob Ruppert, the Yankees owner who assembled the great New York teams that included Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio, is not in the Hall. "I understand that, I know that," Selig said. "I didn't have a vote back then, and I don't have a vote now, so it doesn't make a difference." Selig was in attendance on Monday for the ceremony along with his wife, Sue, joining the Steinbrenner family. The plaque was unveiled just prior to the game as all of the current Yankees and a number of returnees, including Joe Torre, looked on. "It was very, very, very emotional out there," Selig said. "They did a beautiful job. It was very emotional for the family and everybody else. I wouldn't have missed it for the world, nor would my wife." Under Steinbrenner's care, the Yankees were wildly successful, winning seven of their 27 World Series titles and 11 of their 40 American League pennants. Steinbrenner invested huge capital in the team and came under some criticism from his own contemporaries for doing so. He was also suspended twice, by two Commissioners -- Fay Vincent and Bowie Kuhn -- for acts deemed detrimental to baseball. Asked how the Steinbrenner family was running the team in the wake of George's absence, Selig had nothing but praise. Hal Steinbrenner, the youngest son, replaced his father as principal owner and designated voting member almost two years ago. "I think they're doing extremely well," Selig said. "Hal had become very active on committees. Things have worked out very smoothly -- as smoothly as anybody could have hoped for." Selig was also asked about several other issues. About the shattered maple bat that sent the Cubs' Tyler Colvin to the hospital, he said, "I talked to Tyler Colvin today. We're down over 50 percent in regard to broken bats. We're using Harvard and the University of Wisconsin, and we're analyzing bats. We're way down. It was very sad. I talked to the young man this afternoon. Hopefully, he's going home tomorrow. We've been very vigorous on this subject and will continue to be so." On the ongoing study of extending instant replay: "I want to tell you that I'm always open to discussing things. I had a [conference] call with my committee last week, and I brought it up. I talk with a lot of managers and general managers, and I don't get the feeling that there's a lot of support for it -- at least in the conversations they have with me. I'm willing to consider it, but it's a complicated subject. Our committee said we need to study it more. We'll continue to look at it. There's no question baseball is a game of pace, and one needs to be very sensitive about it."