New York City (AFP) – Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said Thursday that he will resign in January of 2015, ending a reign of more than 20 years that began as an interim boss in 1992.
Selig had already said two years ago that the 2014 season would be his last in charge, but gave details about his farewell and the process to name a successor.
“It remains my great privilege to serve the game I have loved,” Selig said. “Baseball is the greatest game ever invented and I look forward to continuing its extraordinary growth and addressing several significant issues during the remainder of my term.”
Selig, 79, was owner of the Milwaukee Brewers before he took over as the interim commissioner in 1992 after owners voted out Fay Vincent and was named to the job on a permanent basis in 1998.
Major League Baseball has grown into a $9 billion business during Selig’s tenure, but has also been stained by doping scandals, including one this year that prompted Selig to impose a 211-game doping ban upon New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, who is playing as he appeals the suspension.
Selig had fights with players, the most brutal of which saw the cancellation of the 1994 World Series as club owners took a hard line in a fight for profits they would eventually share.
The humiliating loss of a season that was two-thirds complete helped push fans away in Montreal, leading to the club’s transfer to Washington, but the bitter memory helped owners and players avoid future money disputes such as those suffered by the other top North American team sports in recent years.
Lawmakers famously criticized Selig for most of a 12-hour hearing into steroids in baseball, a stinging rebuke that led Selig to toughen Major League Baseball’s anti-doping policy to the toughest of the major North American sports leagues, who do not follow World Anti-Doping Agency guidelines.
Home run record chases by Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds ended in doping disgrace, with McGwire admitting he took performance-enhancing drugs and Bonds linked to the BALCO steroid scandal and jeered by fans as he became the all-time U.S. homer king, although he was convicted only of giving a rambling and unresposnsive answer to a grand jury when his doping issues resulted in a trial.
Selig took the American League and National League from two divisions to three in 1994 and expanded the playoffs from four to eight total teams. They were stretched again to the current 10 clubs.
As if that was not shattering to purists of the sport, interleague games began in 1997, an idea that helped push the Houston Astros move from the National to American league this season to give each 15 clubs.
Selig also oversaw expansion to Arizona and Tampa Bay and the move of the Brewers he had once owned from the American to the National League in 1998.
Selig made the mid-season All-Star Game winners the league whose champion has a home-field edge in the World Series and began the limited use of television replays to decide home run boundary issues. An expanded replay system will debut next year.
Greater revenue sharing has helped balance the competitive level between teams from larger television markets and those from smaller cities, with big spenders paying a luxury tax to make their less-wealthy rivals a greater threat to sign free agent talent.
Under Selig, Major League Baseball took charge of its own international reputation with the World Baseball Classic, spurning a shutdown of its season to compete in the Olympics in favor of a March pre-season event that would send top players from around the world against each other before the start of the North American season.