PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. — Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig says he couldn’t resist the pleas of team owners for him to stay on the job. His wife Sue has said all along there was no way her husband would walk away from the game.
In the end, she was right.
Owners voted 29-1 on Thursday to give Selig a two-year contract extension through the 2014 season.
Selig has held the position since 1992, first as interim commissioner and then as commissioner since 1998. He will turn 80 in July 2014.
If he stays until September 2016, he would surpass Kenesaw Mountain Landis (1920-44) as the longest-serving baseball commissioner.
“I’ve often said, and I believe this, for me personally in my life there’s no higher honor than being the commissioner of baseball,” Selig said.
Selig’s contract had been due to expire this Dec. 31 and he had talked of doing some teaching after leaving the job. But he said he began hearing lately from owners who wanted him to stay on.
“I started hearing a couple of weeks ago that there was a groundswell movement to do this,” he said. “‘You can’t leave now.’ I’d hear from various owners.”
He said he reached the decision after thinking about it over the holidays, although he acknowledged his wife had been right when she said all along that he wouldn’t be stepping down this year.
‘In the end, doing what’s in the best interest of baseball — if this many people believe that and feel that — is something that I felt I should do,” he said.
Asked how he felt to have so many want him to stay on the job, Selig said, “You can’t pay a human being a better compliment than that. If they really believe that, I’m just grateful. Very, very grateful.”
Owners deferred a vote on the proposed transfer of the San Diego Padres from John Moores to Jeff Moorad, saying they need clarification on some financial information.
Because Selig’s extension wasn’t on the agenda for the meeting, owners took a unanimous consent vote to allow its approval. Moores, upset that the Padres’ sale was not approved, voted no, a person in the room said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the details were supposed to remain confidential.
Owners took a second vote, giving notice of the extension, but a vote that will not be effective for 10 days. The extension was approved 29-1, with Moores again voting against it.
Selig said he wants the Padres sale issues resolved “expeditiously.” Moorad said he respects the process and is working to resolve the concerns.
Selig, then owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, became interim commissioner when Fay Vincent was ousted in 1992. Six years later, the interim was removed his title.
Selig repeatedly has said since 2006 that his retirement is imminent but also acknowedged almost no one believed him.
Under his leadership, after years of turmoil, baseball has become the most stable of major North American professional sports, achieving labor peace following eight work stoppages from 1972-95. With prodding from Congress, MLB and its players established tough anti-performance enhancing drug rules.
The game added a wild card team for the playoffs in the mid-1990s and instituted video reviews of home run calls in 2008. The Houston Astros agreed to move to the American League for the 2013 season, balancing the leagues at 15 teams apiece.
Players and owners have agreed to add a second wild-card team to each league’s playoffs, and Selig said he is “very hopeful” that can happen this season.
“In the last decade and a half, Bud has really enabled us to do great things,” Philadelphia Phillies president Dave Montgomery said. “I think his greatest asset is he’s brought us together as a group of owners to understand issues and then set direction that has enabled us to move forward quite well. When you think of the changes that have been made during his tenure, it’s pretty remarkable for a game that was thought to be pretty staid not that long ago.”
Selig said that resolving whether the Oakland Athletics can move to a proposed new ballpark in San Jose “is very much on the front burner.” Selig declined to give details. The San Francisco Giants have territorial rights to San Jose and a committee appointed by Selig has been studying the situation since March 2009.
AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.