Bud Selig, Prop.
And so the owners trek to Milwaukee. The mountain comes to Muhammad.
Wayfarers enter a circular reception area with a round rug depicting a baseball. They may sit upon a bench made of bats and bases, there to read baseball history books and view other memorabilia of the diamond. In New York the walls of the headquarters feature rows of television monitors and glitzy displays, baseball as glamour. In Milwaukee the presentation is more homespun, baseballiana. The 30th-floor suite is found, you see, at the confluence of the man and his love.
Bud Selig has an adoration for baseball. Admire him or detest him, this is the first thing anybody says about Bud Selig. Baseball was even the corespondent in his divorce from his first wife. "From the day that Bud became involved in baseball, he divorced me and married baseball," the first Mrs. Selig, Donna, swore to the court in 1976. The judge agreed, declaring that her husband had "unduly absented] himself from the home of the parties and isolated] himself...in pursuit of his baseball interests to the detriment of his marriage."
So the artifacts on display on the 30th floor are testament to the love that dares shout Play ball!, interspersed with certain telling mementos of the man himself. Let us inspect them now.
First, in the entrance area, encased in glass upon the wall, is a black Louisville Slugger, Allan H. Selig model. That is the signature found on official major league baseballs, too, even if, as the commissioner testifies, no one since his sixth-grade teacher has called him Allan.
Bud. It is such a very uncommissionerish moniker. Hiya, Bud. Bud, yo, you. Fill it up, Bud. But Selig is genuinely comfortable with being Bud, or, in the affectionate diminutive, Buddy. After all, he has had the name all his life, since the very day he was born, when his mother, Marie, advised his older brother, "Now you have a buddy." Marie Selig was so very prescient. Her son's success is, at the nub, based on his being a pal, a chum. He is the quintessential...buddy.
Says Fred Wilpon, the co-owner of the New York Mets, "Buddy connects with people. He is patient and willing to listen to other points of view. We've had lots of things to be really angry about, too. But there has not been one day—one day—of acrimony with Buddy. He is what he is."
And what, exactly, is that? Exhibit A is displayed prominently upon a wall in another room, where owners and other petitioners relax while awaiting an audience. It is a gauche certificate attesting to the fact that Commissioner Selig has been selected to appear in Who's Who in America. Here, surely, is the sign of the insecure Selig, the son of immigrants; the shy outsider, the Jew; the Midwesterner; the (in baseball lingo) small-market guy; the neo-Babbitt, whose family fortune comes from selling cars. As Groucho Marx might say, if you have to proclaim that you made Who's Who, maybe you really aren't a who after all.
Next, in the commissioner's office itself, at the front of his desk, facing out to exactly where any journalist will sit to interrogate him, is too perfectly placed that rather condescending remark of Teddy Roosevelt's, the one that belittles the score-keepers of society ("It is not the critic who counts") while elevating the bolder man who puts himself on the line, down "in the arena." Selig was no good at sports, but he is a very competitive sort, damn proud to be down in the arena and, in singular contradiction to his reputation as an accommodator, unafraid to bark back at those picayune bystanders who dare carp at him. His wife refuses to read anything about Bud, lest she encounter a negative report, but he searches out his reviews—"I'm just a masochist, I guess," he says—and then, unlike most public figures, picks up the phone and challenges his critic. "The people who have raised the most hell are those who don't know me," he says. "I just can't understand them getting personal."