IN HIS LATEST BOOK, "A FREE AND ORDERED SPACE," ANGELO BARTLETT GIAMATTI DECLARES: "BEING PRESIDENT OF A UNIVERSITY IS NO WAY FOR AN ADULT TO MAKE A LIVING." SIR, IS BEING COMMISSIONER OF BASEBALL, LIKEWISE, ANY WAY FOR A GROWN-UP TO SPEND HIS WAKING HOURS? "YES, AN ADULT SHOULD BE COMMISSIONER, BECAUSE IN ANY ADULT WILL ALWAYS LURK A CHILD, AND IF YOU DON'T TRY TO FIND AN ADULT FOR THE JOB, THE CHILD WILL SIMPLY TAKE OVER. YOU'VE GOT TO WATCH THAT."
So it was, this April Fools' Day, that the man who stood with God at the helm at Yale became the man who stands with the child in all our selves on behalf of baseball. Quo vadis? Giamatti, in his new book, quotes an apocryphal memo he supposedly wrote and released to "an absent and indifferent" university community upon assuming the presidency at Yale: "In order to repair what Milton called the ruin of our grand parents, I wish to announce that henceforth, as a matter of University policy, evil is abolished and paradise is restored."
Will you then, sir, he was asked last month, issue a similar proclamation on the occasion of your ascent to the summit of the National Pastime?
"No, I tell myself, don't press it. Don't overdo it. This is a special world, baseball, and it certainly has its snakes in the garden, but I'm not sure that it needs a memo as much as that other special world did."
Also, baseball isn't about memos, thank God. It's about lineups, and should the new commissioner issue any such papal bull as he did during his tenure at Yale, it ought to be in the form of a lineup card, to be posted in hearts and dugouts everywhere. It should read:
There would be no designated hitter.
Management is the capacity to handle multiple problems, neutralize various constituencies, motivate personnel.... Leadership, on the other hand, is an essentially moral act, not—as in most management—an essentially protective act. It is the assertion of a vision, not simply the exercise of a style.
From an address to school administrators, 1987
The commissioner has the responsibility for the integrity and for the steady, sustainable growth of the whole institution. Integrity is an important, historical term in baseball, and it not only means honesty, but coherence—authenticity. Game or business, industry or institution, however you define it, the commissioner must seek to ensure its authenticity. The ultimate purpose of playing the game of baseball is to bring pleasure to the American people.
How strange, taken as a group, baseball's stewards have been. In order, they've been: judge, politician, sportswriter, general, lawyer, businessman, scholar. There's room—and therefore hope—for us all. At least till now, baseball commissioners have stood divinely apart from the executives who have managed other sports, for though baseball was in distress when Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis assumed the newly created position in 1921, the game was already an American institution, holy, mature and beloved. Baseball commissioners, perforce, preside. Men in other sports supervise leagues; baseball commissioners are sceptered.