“Given the guy didn’t have much to work with because I was never confused with Clark Gable, I thought he did a masterful job,” Selig said at the unveiling Tuesday. “I thought he captured me really remarkably well.”
The former Milwaukee Brewers owner who became baseball commissioner was honored with a bronze, 7-foot statue in front of Miller Park. It was designed and produced by Brian Maughan and portrays Selig with his right arm extended, his hand holding a baseball.
The statue joined those of Robin Yount and Hank Aaron at the stadium Selig pushed to get built.
Yount, Aaron and fellow Hall of Famers Frank Robinson, Ernie Banks and Al Kaline attended the ceremony along with more than a dozen owners and other dignitaries representing most of the 30 clubs. Rachel Robinson, the widow of Jackie Robinson, also sat in the front row.
“Bud Selig is my hero. He has taken baseball to a far better place than where he found it,” Aaron said. “His life teaches us to persevere, never quit and to extend your hand to help others along this journey.”
Selig, a lifelong baseball fan who brought the Seattle Pilots to Milwaukee in 1970 and renamed them the Brewers, continued to live in his hometown after becoming commissioner.
He was the interim leader in 1992 after the resignation of Fay Vincent, and became commissioner on a full-time basis in 1998.
Selig handed over ownership of the Brewers to his daughter, Wendy Selig-Prieb, and the franchise was sold to a group led by Los Angeles investment banker Mark Attanasio in 2005.
Selig established interleague play and the wild card, a pair of initiatives that didn’t sit well with baseball traditionalists but likely contributed the sport’s rebound in popularity in the late 1990s.
Home run record chases by Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds also boosted the sport’s profile—but those players’ feats eventually would lead to perhaps the biggest test of Selig’s leadership in the wake of the steroids era.
His attempts to explain weaknesses in the sport’s drug testing policy by blaming the players’ union’s inflexibility didn’t sit well with members of Congress.
But as time has past since those hearings, some in the baseball community have called Selig the greatest commissioner in history, and it was repeated several times during Tuesday’s celebration.
“Believe me when I tell you, it’s not an easy job to be commissioner of 30 different owners who have different needs,” Dodgers owner Frank McCourt said. “He has a vision for the game and he’s done some wonderful things for the game.”
Besides Aaron and Yount, 20 other former Milwaukee players were on stage, including Rollie Fingers, Paul Molitor and Ted Simmons.
During his time as owner, Selig worked relentlessly to bring a club back to Milwaukee after the Braves left in 1965. He succeed in bringing the Pilots just before the start of the 1970 season and fought again in a contentious battle with Wisconsin’s state Assembly in the 1990s to build a new park, one of nearly two dozen built during his tenure as commissioner.
“In my respects, I see this as a tribute of a lifetime of service to my sport, my state and community,” Selig said of the statue. “A community in which I was born and raised and continue to live. You have no idea how deeply touched I am.”
The commissioner said children would recognize Yount and Aaron in the area in front of Miller Park, but he hoped to leave this lasting legacy when they saw the statue of the man dressed in a suit and tie.
“I hope that one day when a child walks past that statue and says to his parent and asks, ‘Who’s that?’ the parent will say, ‘He was just a passionate man from Milwaukee, a youngster who just like you had a dream to make this a better place. He never lost hope and he never lost faith and through it he made baseball (and) the community a better place in which to live,’ ” he said.