Baseball Commissioner Selig delivers Commencement address at Owen School

May 10, 2002

NASHVILLE, Tenn.–Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig told the 193 full-time MBA and 61 Executive MBA graduates of Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management today that although major league baseball enjoyed record attendance last year, he is “dedicated to leveling the playing field and to implementing the necessary changes to help the game continue to grow.”

Selig said that baseball is a business that shares the same sorts of problems as any venture that the graduates are about to embark on, and, as a seasoned business leader, he advised them not to back down from the challenges they will face.

“There are times when the issues at hand are so critical that you must keep your eye on the ball, so to speak,” Selig said. “Don’t be distracted by your critics. Stand your ground, and take the consequences that come. Always do what you think is right.”

Selig acknowledged the criticism that has been lodged against him in the years that he has headed Major League Baseball, and said he thinks most of it has been unfair.

“I’ve been in baseball for 40 years. Many people in the game suffer from what I call the ‘Scarlett O’Hara Syndrome’—they see a problem but say they’ll think about it tomorrow. Well, tomorrow is here,” he said. “Some people want to maintain the status quo; I can’t do that. I must do what’s right for the game of baseball,” he said

Selig outlined some of the changes he is pursuing, some of which were identified by a blue ribbon panel that he commissioned to study the problems of the game and how to fix them. The panel concluded that there were “large and growing payroll disparities” that are only worsening. Selig said that he wants to see improvements in the revenue differential between teams that results in a $100 million disparity in club payrolls.

He also predicted that contraction of the leagues would happen. “The two expansions over the last decade were ill advised,” he said. He noted that the owners support contraction. “Some teams don’t generate enough revenue and have no hope of doing so,” he said.

Selig said that baseball is experiencing a renaissance, and he expressed optimism about the future growth of the game. He said that he anticipates even more growth in interest in the game in large part due to its diversity. Some 26 percent of current major league players were born outside of the United States, and that results in an international fan base, he said.

A lifelong fan, Selig and a group of investors were awarded the Seattle Pilots franchise in 1970, and he subsequently became president of the Milwaukee Brewers. During his tenure with the Brewers, he became a member of the Major League Executive Council. When Commissioner Fay Vincent resigned in 1992, Selig was named chairman of that council which, under his leadership, ruled the game in the absence of a commissioner until 1998. At that time Selig was appointed the ninth commissioner of baseball.

Contact: Susanne Loftis, (615) 322-2706

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