Rounding The Bases With Former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig
With David Folkenflik
We’re discussing the state of play in Major League Baseball with ESPN writer Jeff Passan. Then, former Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig steps up to the plate to face questions about his record and his outlook on America’s pastime today. His new memoir is “For the Good of the Game.”
Jeff Passan – MLB writer for ESPN (@JeffPassan)
Bud Selig – former Major League Baseball Commissioner, author of “For the Good of the Game: The Inside Story of the Surprising and Dramatic Transformation of Major League Baseball.”
From The Reading List
An excerpt from“For the Good of the Game: The Inside Story of the Surprising and Dramatic Transformation of Major League Baseball.” by Bud Selig, Copyright © 2019 by Allan H. Selig, Harper Collins Publishers:
“This wasn’t the Bataan Death March. Nobody was going to die or be forced into hard labor. But the summer of 2007 was unpleasant for me, and when I look back, that’s putting it mildly. It was one of the few times in my life I wasn’t excited about going to ballparks, and if you know me that’s all you need to know. As Barry Bonds closed in on the all-time home run record, I flew around the country and spent my nights in places like the Four Seasons and the Westin St. Francis. I was never far from my next Diet Coke. As far as personal hardship goes, about all there was to worry about was a wait to get on a treadmill in the fitness room before getting a bite and heading out to the ballpark. There was no way I was going to complain to anyone. Not a scintilla of a chance. But everyone who knew me knew I was unhappy. They could see it on my face, in my lack of enthusiasm. I was surrounded by people I enjoyed, but even amid good company I felt alone with my thoughts. I was tired, and I’ll admit it, I was haunted by regret. My mind raced as I searched for ways I could have avoided these long days and nights. Bonds was on the verge of breaking Henry Aaron’s record for career home runs, and I was doing what a commissioner of a sports league is supposed to do. I was hopscotching around the country to be in attendance when the self-absorbed slugger hit the record homer.”
“Like Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose, Barry had brought scandal to the game I’d fallen in love with as a boy and now led as baseball’s ninth commissioner. I wasn’t going to sing his praises, as I’d done for Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa when they smashed Roger Maris’s single-season homer record in 1998, but I didn’t want to be conspicuous by my absence, either.”
“So in a stretch of sixteen days I watched Bonds and the San Francisco Giants play nine times. It was not one of the highlights of my life. The Bonds Watch started for me at Miller Park in Milwaukee, where at least I could watch from my own suite and sleep in my own bed. The next stops were San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, where I was just waiting for Barry to put me out of my misery. He could have done it quicker, but one of the beauties of baseball is you can’t orchestrate it. In the end, the game rewards perseverance; it does not serve up a whole lot of convenience to anyone who makes it their life’s work. After watching Barry go homerless in a series against the Braves at AT&T Park in San Francisco, I traveled cross-country to induct Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn into the Hall of Fame.”
“Then I flew home from Cooperstown for a quick rest before moving on to L.A. and Dodger Stadium.”
“I had hit the road when Barry was two homers shy of Henry, not wanting to take anything for granted. I could have spared myself many nights on the road, because he homered only once in a stretch of thirty-seven at-bats, getting to 754. Bonds was stuck there—in a slump, actually—and I had business back home, so I flew to Milwaukee for a quick pit stop after leaving Dodger Stadium. That meant another cross-country flight, this time to San Diego to watch the Giants play the Padres at Petco Park. Along the way, I had a lot of time to think about the differences between Barry Bonds, who simply wasn’t likable, and Henry Aaron, who had been such a giant on the field and now was the same way off the field, carrying himself with as much poise as humility. I have called myself a friend of Henry’s since 1958 and burst with pride every time I speak about him.Henry was one of the greatest hitters to ever play the game. He was still a Brave when he broke Babe Ruth’s record, but I brought him back to Milwaukee to finish his career as the Brewers’ designated hitter. It took Aaron twenty-three seasons to get to 755 home runs, never hitting more than forty-seven in a season.”
“But it wasn’t my friendship with Henry that troubled me as I waited for Bonds to hit the 755th and 756th home runs of his career. It was the way Barry had piled up homers in the second half of his career, at a rate that seemed impossible to Henry and
players from baseball’s other generations. We had been caught off guard when McGwire and Sosa passed Maris, but this was almost a decade later. Of course, by then we knew what was going on. This was an age when sluggers found extra power through chemistry, and, of course, Barry was one of the leading men in baseball’s steroids narrative.”
“There is plenty of blame to spread around in this sad chapter, and I’ll accept my share of the responsibility. We didn’t get the genie back in the bottle in time to protect Aaron’s legacy.”
“Henry knows we tried, but I’ll always wish we had been successful in implementing testing for performance-enhancing drugs sooner than we eventually were, as part of labor negotiations in 2002.”
“If you weren’t lucky enough to see Henry Aaron hit when he was in his prime, you missed one of the real delights of my life. You just never saw line drives like the ones Henry hit.”
Adam Waller produced this hour for broadcast.
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
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