Owners have repeatedly praised his financial stewardship, which has led to record franchise values as shown by the $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers last year. The average player salary has tripled under his tenure to more than $3 million.
Selig’s critics said he moved cautiously — a characterization even he sometimes agreed with. Running baseball from his longtime home in Milwaukee, he worked to build consensus rather than dictate to owners in the manner of Peter Ueberroth. Selig used a grandfatherly charm to get what he wanted.
“Everything’s been a success overall,” Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. “You’re going to have your detractors, that goes without saying.”
Selig became a baseball fan when his mother took him to games as a child. Working in the family auto-leasing business, he became a minority investor in the Milwaukee Braves and tried to stop the team’s move to Atlanta for the 1966 season.
As a stopgap measure, he arranged for the Chicago White Sox to play nine regular-season games at Milwaukee in 1968 and 11 the following year. Just before the 1970 season, he bought the Seattle Pilots in bankruptcy court, moved the franchise to Milwaukee and renamed it the Brewers.
Mentored by Detroit Tigers owner John Fetzer, Selig became a leading owner by the early 1980s in his role as chairman of the Player Relations Committee, which determined labor policy. He was part of the group that wanted major changes in the sport’s lab contract with players and forced the resignation of Fay Vincent, who had been in office for three years. Selig took over as acting commissioner on Sept. 9, 1992, in his role as chairman of the executive council.
While he presided over a 7½-month strike in 1994-95 that led to the cancellation of the World Series for the first time in 90 years, following eight straight work stoppages owners and players reached agreements without interruption in 2002, 2006 and 2011.
Although Selig repeatedly said he would not take the job full time, he was formally elected commissioner July 9, 1998. He turned running the Brewers over to daughter Wendy Selig-Prieb, but the Selig family did not sell the franchise until 2005.
Selig agreed to a new contract as commissioner in 2001. He first announced his planned retirement in 2003, telling a group from Associated Press Sports Editors he would leave in 2006.
“For a guy who took it in Sept. 9, 1992, and I told my wife it was two-to-four months — 14 years later … I think that will be enough. There’s no question, because there are other things I really would like to do.”
Asked again if this was his final term, Selig responded; “Oh, there’s no question.”
He then agreed to new contracts in 2004, 2008 and 2012.
Selig has said he wants to write a book. He has taught at the University of Wisconsin and Marquette’s law school.
“We look forward to working with the commissioner over the next 15 months,” union head Michael Weiner said in a statement. “Then, we hope the commissioner enjoys his retirement and wish him well.”