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Commissioner of Baseball

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The Commissioner of Baseball is the title of the highest office in Major League Baseball. Under the direction of the Commissioner, the office hires and maintains the sport's umpiring crews, and negotiates marketing, labor, and television contracts. The Commissioner is chosen by a vote of the owners of the teams.

The current Commissioner is Bud Selig, who has been in office since 1992 (as "Acting Commissioner" until 1998).

Origin of the OfficeEdit

The unique title Commissioner, which is a title now applied to the heads of several other major sports leagues as well as baseball, derives from its predecessor office, the National Commission. The National Commission was the ruling body of professional baseball starting with the National Agreement of 1903, which made peace between the National League and the American League (see History of baseball in the United States). It consisted of three members: the two League Presidents and a Commission Chairman, whose primary responsibility was to preside at meetings and presumably to mediate disputes.

The Black Sox Scandal was seen as a failure of the National Commission. The Commission was in some sense baseball's equivalent to the Articles of Confederation: a good start, but ultimately scrapped and replaced with a more powerful and centralized government. In 1920, team owners established the office of Commissioner in order to reestablish the confidence of fans in the sport. The first commissioner was a former federal judge, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who ruled baseball with a firm hand for 24 years.

Owners' "Coup"Edit

Subsequent Commissioners wielded varying degrees of power with varying degrees of success. An important aspect of the office is that, while charged with defending the "best interests of baseball", the Commissioner was always elected by baseball team owners alone, and thus is not directly answerable to players, umpires, or fans. Still, there are a number of occasions on which the Commissioner has made decisions unpopular with the owners to defend the "best interests of baseball," such as when Bowie Kuhn invalidated a 1976 sale of high-profile players to the Yankees.

The inherent tension, exacerbated by baseball's chronic labor strife beginning in the 1970s, came to a head in 1992, when baseball owners voted no confidence in Commissioner Fay Vincent by a tally of 18-9. The owners had a number of grievances against Vincent, especially the perception that he had been too favorable to the players during the lockout of 1990. Vincent resigned 7 September 1992, and was replaced as Acting Commissioner by Bud Selig, who continued to act as owner of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Selig continued under the title of Acting Commissioner until 1998, when he divested himself from active involvement in the Brewers and became Commissioner in full. Having been an owner himself for 30 years, Selig is seen as much less of an independent authority than were previous commissioners. His ascent was soon followed by the disastrous 1994 baseball strike, in which the intransigence of both players and owners led to the cancellation of the World Series and widespread disillusionment among baseball fans. Selig's later administration has had many perceived successes, such as expansion and interleague play, but many still see his lack of independence from the owners as a problem.

Current ChallengesEdit

The scandal of the late 1990s and early 2000s on the usage of performance enhancing drugs by ballplayers, including anabolic steroids, has been compared to the Black Sox scandal by some sportswriters [citation needed]. Addressing the issue of whether or not Selig should have taken alternate actions, former commissioner Fay Vincent wrote in the April 24, 2006, issue of Sports Illustrated that with most of Bonds' official troubles being off the field, and with the strength of the players' union, there is little Selig can do beyond appointing an investigating committee. Vincent said that Selig is largely "an observer of a forum beyond his reach."


  • It is said that George W. Bush, then owner of the Texas Rangers and now President of the United States, angled for the position when it was technically vacant (Selig was only "acting" commissioner) in the 1990s.[1] An oft-mentioned candidate at that time was George J. Mitchell, then Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate.
  • By the end of 2007, Selig will have passed Ford Frick and Bowie Kuhn to become the second longest-serving Commissioner, behind only Landis.
  • Selig announced that he will retire at the end of his contract in 2009. [1]

Commissioners of BaseballEdit


  1. Tracy Ringolsby. "Does baseball need a commissioner with a background in the game?", Rocky Mountain News, August 17, 1995, p. 9B. Retrieved on 2006-11-27.

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