Selig's critics laugh up their sleeves at that. The union leaders, who manifestly distrust Selig, have whispered that his canny manipulations in procuring the position reveal the commissioner's true self. As early as 1989, Charles O'Connor, the owners' lead labor negotiator at that time, told a disbelieving Vincent that Selig had set his cap for the job.
Whereas such national figures as New York governor Mario Cuomo and Senate majority leader George Mitchell seemed inclined to accept the position—"It's really amazing who would want this awful job," Vincent mutters—the tide turned against offering it to an outlander. Tire head of the selection committee was Bill Bartholomay, the chairman of the Braves and surely the only person on the face of the earth to have met all nine commissioners. (He sat on Judge Landis's knee when he was a five-year-old.) "We talked seriously to a lot of people," Bartholomay says, "but we never came close to picking an outsider. And Buddy was the obvious insider."
Well, except for....
"All George W. Bush wanted was to be commissioner of baseball," Vincent says. "He'd talk to me about it after they ran me out, and he'd say that Selig was going to get him the votes, and I'd say, 'George, I don't think he's going to deliver for you.'
"By then I finally understood that Bud wanted the job, and the last time I talked to George W. about it, I said, 'Do you believe me now?' And he said: 'Yes, I'm beginning to understand.'
"George W. had to make a decision then, whether or not to run for governor in '94. A lot of people wanted him to run, but he didn't think he could beat [the incumbent] Ann Richards. It was only when he finally realized that Bud wasn't going to step aside that he decided to try it. It is my contention that one man made George W. Bush president, and that man was Bud Selig."
Accepting an invitation from the commissioner, the President threw out the first ball at Miller Park, the Brewers' new stadium, when it opened last year.
George Mitchell, one of those men of distinction who wanted the job Selig got, once explained why a facility to appear and declaim impressively on television was so crucial for any public person. "It's just an attribute of leadership in our time," Mitchell said. "People cannot ridicule or demean it. Two centuries ago the ability to ride a horse and wield a sword were attributes of leadership."
Alas, as the face and voice of baseball management, Selig does not cut an impressive figure. After all those man-hours on the telephone, he is styled for chitchat, not oratory. The passion that is so obvious in casual byplay tends to come across more as whining when he is before a microphone. Words are not his best friends. Inside baseball, people still snicker about an unsigned memo of a few years ago that employed the word analization for analysis. It was instantly attributed to Selig.
The commissioner is healthy and looks young for his 67 years, but his hair often drifts down into something of a page boy. Selig also buys perfectly nice conservative clothes, but they don't dress him up so much as wear on him. Carl Pohlad, the Minnesota owner, even provided Selig with a considerable wardrobe in a wistful effort to turn the rumpled commissioner into more of a Beau Brummell. When he ran the Brewers, Selig reminded the players of Jerry Lewis. For his looks, not his antics.