Originally Published: December 5, 2016 6 a.m.
OXON HILL, Md. (AP) — Bud Selig oversaw baseball during a time of transformation and turmoil — wild cards and a ballpark boom, the cancellation of a World Series and the Steroids Era. For much of his reign, though, there was one constant: those first-place Atlanta Braves, built by John Schuerholz.
The former commissioner and the longtime general manager met up again Sunday, both elected by an overwhelming margin to the Hall of Fame.
Even so, Selig didn’t see it as a sure thing.
“It reminded me of many a ninth inning when I used to pace around,” the one-time owner of the Milwaukee Brewers said on a conference call.
Schuerholz was picked by all 16 voters on a veterans committee at the winter meetings in suburban Washington. Selig was listed 15 times.
“The ultimate of honors,” Schuerholz said.
It took 12 votes for election, and former player and manager Lou Piniella was third with seven. Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Davey Johnson, Mark McGwire and George Steinbrenner also were on the ballot considered by the Today’s Game Era panel, and none of them got more than five votes.
Selig became the fifth of 10 commissioners to reach the Hall. He will be enshrined July 30 in Cooperstown, New York — on his 83rd birthday.
His election was sure to draw fire from fans who link him to some of the game’s darkest moments.
He called off the 1994 World Series during a players’ strike.
He was in charge when illegal steroids left a cloud of performance-enhancing drugs that still lingers — and that might prompt some to wonder whether power hitters and power pitchers who benefited from PEDs should now be welcomed to the Hall, too.
“Sometimes in life you have to go through certain things to maybe solve the problem,” Selig said.
Under Selig, the playoffs expanded from four teams to eight to 10 and the leagues were split into three divisions. Video replay was added to review umpire calls, revenue sharing was put in place and 20 new stadiums opened across the majors.
“We were a sport resistant to change,” he said. “And, yes, I believe in those years as commissioner, that’s the most change in baseball history.”
There was no variance, however, once Schuerholz took over as GM of the Braves in the winter of 1990.
Atlanta had never won even a single playoff game in its 25-season existence before going from worst-to-first in its first year under Schuerholz, starting an unprecedented run of 14 straight division titles.
The Braves were boosted in that time by their Big Three of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, and manager Bobby Cox, all of them already in the Hall. Star third baseman Chipper Jones is expected to join them soon enough.
Schuerholz was the first GM to run clubs that took World Series crowns in both leagues, winning with Kansas City in 1985 and Atlanta in 1995.
“I loved to build teams,” he said.
In 26 years as a GM, his teams won 16 division titles and six pennants.
“I always had aspirations to be a successful general manager,” Schuerholz said.
The 76-year-old later became president of the Braves and is currently a vice chairman with the team, helping prepare for its move to SunTrust Park next season.
His son was a minor league infielder with the Braves and works in their front office.
Born in Baltimore, and the son of a former Philadelphia Athletics minor league second baseman, Schuerholz played the same position at Towson University in his hometown.
He was teaching eighth-grade English and world geography in 1966 when, during a class break, he wrote a letter to the president of the Orioles, saying he really wanted to work in baseball and hoping for a chance.
“It all started with that letter,” he remembered.