The Other Side of Bud Selig
1-18-23 (Originally Published 1-9-03)
Over the past couple of years, no man has taken more abuse in the press than former Milwaukee Brewers' owner and current baseball commissioner Alan H. "Bud" Selig. A dark cloud seems to follow every decision he makes as commissioner. He has constant difficulty dealing with the Pete Rose situation, realignment was a total nightmare, and the biggest debacle of all had to be 2002 All Star Game, in his hometown of Milwaukee, which ended in a tie. In his worst day, former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent didn't have to deal with so many problems.
It really doesn't matter what magazine or website you read; sports writers destroyed him in article after article. Personally, I've also had problems with some of Mr. Selig's decisions. I feel he has made numerous mistakes, many of which I would not have made, despite having far less experience than he does.
No matter how many issues he handles improperly however, Bud Selig will always have a special place in my heart. As the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers in 1993, he did something that I sincerely believe no other owner in professional sports would ever do. He returned my phone call. Try to picture George Steinbrenner returning a fan's phone call!
It was just after New Years. I returned home from work late in the afternoon and picked up the sports section. Since it was 1993, there was no Internet, so I still relied on USA TODAY for all of my sports news. Looking through the sports section, nothing was overly interesting until I came across a small blurb revealing that Molitor had signed with the Blue Jays. It was like someone reached into my chest, pulled out my heart, and stomped on it. My second favorite Brewer - a player I had followed since his rookie year - had just left home. I was so upset, I could barely speak. It was obvious to me I had to do something, but I couldn't figure out what.
The next day, I picked up the phone and dialed the Milwaukee Brewers. Being a lifelong fan living in New Jersey, I had little exposure to the team outside what I read in the newspapers. On top of that, who would want to talk to some guy living half a country away? It didn't matter to me. I had to at least give it a try.
When the receptionist asked with whom I wanted to speak, I explained my situation and how upset I was. Once again she asked whom I wanted to contact, I replied, "Bud Selig, but he'll never talk to me." To my surprise, she transferred the call. When Selig's voicemail picked up, I figured this was my shot. I proceeded to explain to his answering machine how I was feeling, and as a lark, I left my phone number.
I hung up the phone and felt quite proud of myself. Less than a minute later, I called a friend to brag about what I had just done. From there, I returned to work not thinking anything more about it. A few hours later, my phone rang.
"This is Bud Selig of the Milwaukee Brewers," the voice on the other side said. I laughed to myself figuring my friend was playing games with me. He asked me why I called so I started to explain exactly why I was upset, all the while assuming my friend was on the other end of the line.
Five minutes into the conversation, I realized it was indeed Bud Selig on the other end of the phone. I was shocked. I started getting serious and explained to him my philosophy on how Molitor could have stayed home. Sure, the Blue Jays offered him more money, but the following season, three horrible contracts, Teddy Higuera, Franklin Stubbs, and junkballin' Bill Wegman would be up. I asked Mr. Selig why he couldn't have offered Molitor a better contract paying more money the following years. I also asked him if he was too busy playing commissioner that he forgot about the Molitor situation.
He was stern, but friendly at the same time. Without hesitation, he assured me that he did not forget about the second greatest player in team history. He told me it was something that happened and I had to get over it. Now that might sound pretty harsh, but it wasn't. He was just being honest. In the business of baseball, things often happen beyond our control.
I didn't want to keep him on the phone too long, so I thanked him for the call and hung up. Looking around the room after the call, I felt better. Paul Molitor was gone and there was nothing I could do about it. But something about the owner of the team spending ten minutes on the phone with me showing how much he cared about the fans helped me through the trying times.
That was ten years ago*. Since then, he has experienced numerous ups and downs. But no matter what he does, there will always be a place in my heart for Alan H. "Bud" Selig, because he did what no other owner in baseball would ever consider: he returned my phone call.
(Editor's Note: At the National Sportscard Convention a few years back, I ran into someone who claimed to have knowledge of the situation. He told me that Molitor's camp told Selig they had until midnight on a specific night to meet his demands. Allegedly, Selig decided to give Molitor the contract at 11:45pm that night. Unfortunately, Molitor decided to sign with Toronto not long before. I cannot verify that this is true, but I found it interesting nonetheless.)
(*Editor's note: the events mentioned took place in the winter of 1992/93 & this story was written in 2003.)