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The Commissioner of Baseball is the chief executive of Major League Baseball.[1] Under the direction of the commissioner, the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball hires and maintains the sport's umpiring crews, and negotiates marketing, labor, and television contracts. The commissioner is chosen by a vote of the owners of the teams.

The current commissioner is Bud Selig, who has been in office since 1998. Selig acted as a de facto commissioner under title of "Chairman of the Executive Council" from 1992 to 1998, when the office of commissioner was vacant.


Origin of the office

The unique title commissioner, which is a title now applied to the heads of several other major sports leagues as well as baseball, derives from its predecessor office, the National Commission. The National Commission was the ruling body of professional baseball starting with the National Agreement of 1903, which made peace between the National League and the American League (see History of baseball in the United States). It consisted of three members: the two League presidents and a Commission chairman, whose primary responsibilities were to preside at meetings and to mediate disputes. Following the Black Sox Scandal, team owners decided in 1920 to reform the National Commission with a membership of non-baseball men. However, their pick for chairman, former federal judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, would only accept an appointment as sole commissioner. He also demanded unlimited authority over all aspects of organized baseball. The owners agreed, in order to combat the perception of the sport being controlled by gambling interests.

Owners' "coup"

Landis ruled baseball with an iron hand for 24 years. For example, in response to fining Babe Ruth $5,000, he is quoted as saying, "In this [commissioner's] office he's just another ballplayer." Subsequent commissioners wielded varying degrees of power with varying degrees of success.

Tensions between commissioners and the baseball team owners who elected them, exacerbated by baseball's chronic labor conflicts with the Major League Baseball Players Association beginning in the 1970s, came to a head in 1992, when baseball owners voted no confidence in Commissioner Fay Vincent by a tally of 18–9. The owners had a number of grievances against Vincent, especially the perception that he had been too favorable to the players during the lockout of 1990. Unlike the current commissioner, Vincent has stated that the owners colluded against the players. Vincent put it this way: "The Union basically doesn’t trust the Ownership because collusion was a $280 million theft by Selig and Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf of that money from the players. I mean, they rigged the signing of free agents. They got caught. They paid $280 million to the players. And I think that's polluted labor relations in baseball ever since it happened. I think it's the reason union chief Donald Fehr has no trust in Selig."[2]

Vincent resigned on 7 September 1992. Selig, the longtime owner of the Milwaukee Brewers was appointed chairman of baseball's Executive Council, making him the de facto acting commissioner. Among the potential candidates for a permanent commissioner discussed in the media were future President George W. Bush (who was the managing partner for the Texas Rangers from 1989 to 1994)[3] and George J. Mitchell (then Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate).[4] While acting commissioner, he presided over Major League Baseball during the 1994 player's strike, which led to the cancellation of the World Series.

Selig continued as acting commissioner until July 8, 1998, when the owners officially appointed him to the commissioner position.[5] Having been an owner for 30 years, Selig is seen as having closer ties to the MLB team owners than previous commissioners. Selig's administration has had many perceived successes, such as expansion and interleague play, but many still see his lack of independence from the owners as a problem.

In May 2008, Bud Selig surpassed Bowie Kuhn as the second longest-serving commissioner (including his time as "acting commissioner" from 1992 to mid-1998), behind Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who died in office after 24 years of service.[6] Beginning in 2006, Selig repeatedly stated his intention to retire at the end of his contract in 2009.[7] However, on 17 January 2008, it was announced that Selig has accepted a 3-year extension through the 2012 season [8]

Current challenges

The most prominent issue currently faced by Major League Baseball is the usage of performance enhancing drugs, including anabolic steroids, by ballplayers in the late 1990s through 2009. Addressing the issue of whether Selig should have taken alternate actions, former commissioner Fay Vincent wrote in the April 24, 2006, issue of Sports Illustrated that with most of Barry Bonds' official troubles being off the field, and with the strength of the players' union, there is little Selig can do beyond appointing an investigating committee. Vincent said that Selig is largely "an observer of a forum beyond his reach."


  1. Kenesaw Mountain Landis (1920–1944)
  2. A. B. "Happy" Chandler, Sr. (1945–1951)
  3. Ford Frick (1951–1965)
  4. William Eckert (1965–1968)
  5. Bowie Kuhn (1969–1984)
  6. Peter Ueberroth (1984–1989)
  7. Bart Giamatti (1989) - Giamatti served from April 1, 1989 until his death from a heart attack on September 1, 1989.
  8. Fay Vincent (1989–1992)
  9. Bud Selig (1998–present) - held title of "acting commissioner" or "Chairman of the Executive Council" from (1992–1998)


  1. ^ "MLB Executives" (HTML). Major League Baseball. 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-30.  
  2. ^ Brown, Maury (2005-11-09). "Interview - Fay Vincent - Former Commissioner" (HTML). The Biz of Baseball. Retrieved 2007-09-22.  
  3. ^ Tracy Ringolsby (1995-08-17). "Does baseball need a commissioner with a background in the game?". Rocky Mountain News: p. 9B.  
  4. ^ Pierce, Charles (2006-10-08). "Does George Mitchell Have the Juice?" (HTML). Boston Globe Magazine. Boston Globe. Retrieved 2007-09-22.  
  5. ^ Major League Baseball. "Allan H. "Bud" Selig" (HTML). Commissioners: History. MLB Advanced Media. Retrieved 2008-08-31.  
  6. ^ National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum (2007). "Hall of Famer detail: Kenesaw Mountain Landis" (HTML). National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Retrieved 2007-09-22.  
  7. ^ Associated Press (2006-12-01). "Selig set to retire happy when contract ends in 3 years" (HTML). Retrieved 2007-09-22.  
  8. ^

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