Bud Selig spent 22 years as the commissioner of baseball. John Schuerholz built World Series champions in Atlanta and Kansas City. On Sunday night, they were elected together to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Schuerholz was elected unanimously by the 16 members of the Hall’s newly formed Today’s Game Era committee. Selig received 15 of 16 possible votes. No one else on the 10-person ballot came close to the 12 votes (or 75 percent) needed for election. Longtime manager Lou Piniella, who got seven votes, was the only other candidate to get within five votes of election.
Selig became the first living commissioner to be elected to the Hall since Happy Chandler in 1982. Selig has been serving as baseball’s commissioner emeritus since retiring as commissioner after the 2014 season.
His time as commissioner weathered its share of storms, from the strike that canceled the 1994 World Series to the PED era. But Selig wound up spending more years in the job — 22, if you include his six years as interim commissioner — than any commissioner in history except Kenesaw Mountain Landis. And Selig presided over an era of dramatic change which, as Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson put it Sunday, “had a profound impact on how the game has matured over the last quarter-century.”
“It has been an amazing and remarkable journey,” Selig told ESPN.com during an interview in January 2014. “You couldn’t write it or make a movie out of it, because nobody would believe it.”
Interleague play came to baseball on Selig’s watch. So did wild cards, replay, 22 new ballparks, huge attendance growth, realignment, two expansions, globalization and an explosion in revenues. Baseball was a $1.2 billion industry when he took the job. It was a $9 billion industry when he retired.
Before becoming commissioner, Selig spent 28 years as the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers after leading the effort that brought them to Milwaukee from Seattle. And before that, in the 1960s, he was a minority owner of the Milwaukee Braves.
Selig and Schuerholz are linked by their association with the Braves, but also worked together extensively during Selig’s time as commissioner. Selig appointed Schuerholz to lead a number of different committees, most recently the committee that formulated baseball’s foray into expanded use of replay in Selig’s final season.
Schuerholz has spent the last 25 seasons with the Braves and currently serves as their vice chairman. But he is best-known as the general manager who built a modern quasi-dynasty in Atlanta.
He arrived in Atlanta in 1990. In 1991, the Braves went from last place to first, lost a seven-game World Series to the Minnesota Twins and began an unprecedented run of 14 straight division titles. Although those teams won the World Series only once, in 1995, they reached the Series five times in the ’90s. And from 1991-2005, they won more games (1,431) than any team in baseball and won nearly 200 more games than any other team in the National League, averaging 95 wins a season.
Before arriving in Atlanta, Schuerholz spent nine years as the general manager of the Kansas City Royals. He was the youngest GM in baseball history, at 40 years old, when he was first promoted to that job in 1981. His teams then made it to the postseason in three of the next five years and won the World Series in 1985. When he won in Atlanta a decade later, it made him the first general manager in history to win a championship in both leagues.
The Today’s Game committee was formed to review candidates from 1988 to the present. In addition to Selig and Schuerholz, the committee also considered former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, along with two managers (Piniella and Davey Johnson) and five players (Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser and Mark McGwire). Only Selig, Schuerholz and Piniella got more than four votes. Complete voting totals were not released to the public.
ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian was a member of the committee, as was Schuerholz’s longtime manager, Bobby Cox. The committee is a mix of executives, writer/historians and former Hall of Fame players.