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03/22/07 10:29 PM ET
Selig presented with executive award
Commissioner is keynote speaker at World Congress of Sports
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Commissioner Bud Selig was formally presented on Thursday with the award as the 2006 Executive of the Year by the Sports Business Journal and Sports Business Daily. The honor, which was bestowed upon him at the end of last year, was the highlight of the annual two-day World Congress of Sports, sponsored jointly by the Sports Business Journal and IMG. Selig was the keynote speaker at the event and the presentation was followed by a "One-on-One" interview session with the Commissioner moderated by Eric Fisher, a reporter for the Journal. "I accept this award and, quite frankly as somebody who has studied the role of the Commissioner going back to 1921, I understand the successes and the failures this sport has had over time," said Selig, who was lauded for bringing baseball forward from an entity that was generating $1.2 billion a year at the time he became Commissioner in 1992 to a record $5.2 billion last season. "I've been lucky because the group that's been with me has been remarkable. "And so, we are in the golden era and this has been a remarkable renaissance. But I can thank not only all the clubs, who run their businesses very well today, but our staff, most of whom are here. We're in the golden era because of all your efforts. I'm privileged to be in the position I'm in." Selig was also lauded for his myriad accomplishments: Interleague play; the three-division format; three tiers of playoffs; competitive balance that has resulted in a different World Series winner every year since 2000, and 16 years of labor peace that began with the ending of the strike that wiped out the 1994 World Series and the start of the 1995 season, and will extend through the term of the current Basic Agreement, which expires in 2011. "All the emotions and hatreds exploded in 1994," Selig said about baseball's last work stoppage. "But I think in the end, at least for the next generation or so, that may have turned out to be a watershed moment and a very positive one." During the 25-minute question-and-answer session, Selig reiterated what he's been saying for several months: That when his current term expires in 2009 he plans to retire from Major League Baseball. He also touched on topics that ranged from the new DirecTV deal to the recent death of former Commissioner Bowie Kuhn to the ongoing steroids controversy and the pending report on the subject from a committee headed by former Sen. George Mitchell. "It is a definite thing in my mind," Selig said about his '09 retirement. "I know (some of my colleagues don't believe me). I had an owner say to me yesterday that 'if you go, I'm going.' I said, 'then you better plan on going.' In 2009 I'm going to be 75. I want to teach and write a book. Even when you play Monopoly you get a 'get out of jail free card.' So I'm entitled to do that, too." Selig became interim Commissioner, replacing Fay Vincent in September 1992, and was given the post full-time on July 9, 1998. He also vowed that he intended to retire in 2003 at the end of his last term, but agreed to stay on after the owners voted to extend his contract. Asked what he would do if the owners tried that tact again, the 71-year-old Selig said: "Well, they know my feelings. While I learned years ago not to say never, I really believe that that's what's going to happen. I'm planning my life around that. I still have three years left so I have a long road ahead of me and I'll worry about that at the time. But there are other things in life I want to do. And very hopefully I'll be in good enough health to do them." Selig was upbeat and answered many of the questions at length, although he broke relatively no new ground. He defended the deal to move MLB's Extra Innings package to DirecTV, a decision that will be explored during a Congressional hearing next Tuesday on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. "I don't have to go (to the hearing), which is good," Selig said, noting that baseball will be represented amply by Bob DuPuy, MLB's president and chief operating officer, who is slated to testify. "We have every one of our games on television. Every market has between 350-400 games a year. We didn't get to the record attendance and numbers we've gotten by denying anybody anything. The fact of the matter is that DirecTV won in a very fair process." From a franchise standpoint, Selig said that the $461 million sale of the Braves to Liberty Media is moving towards its conclusion. "Our objective there is to keep the stability of the Atlanta franchise, which is so important to us," he said. "We'll continue to talk to all parties and get it done because it's important for them to move on." As far as the death last week of Kuhn is concerned, Selig said that he has become very reflective in the wake of Kuhn's passing. Kuhn became Commissioner in 1969 and Selig formally joined MLB in 1970 as owner of the newly transplanted Milwaukee Brewers. He remained in that position for the rest of Kuhn's tenure, which ended in 1984. "It's really been a very emotional and sentimental week for me," said Selig, who attended Kuhn's funeral in Florida on Tuesday. "After he took over, I really lived with him for all those years. He was a man of great integrity, but they were very, very tumultuous times. Why was baseball stuck in neutral back then? A myriad of reasons. But the primary reason was we had one work stoppage after another. It was owners against owners. It was owners against players. It was everybody against the Commissioner. There was all this hatred. In fairness to Bowie, he lived with it every day."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.