In his new book, “For The Good of the Game,” former MLB commissioner Bud Selig revealed his feelings as he watched Barry Bonds chase Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record during the summer of 2007.
He was, in a word, “miserable.”
According to excerpts released by Sports Illustrated on Tuesday, Selig detailed the internal struggle he faced balancing his responsibilities as MLB commissioner with the overwhelming dread of the inevitable.
“This wasn’t the Bataan Death March,” Selig writes. “Nobody was going to die or be forced into hard labor, But the summer of 2007 was unpleasant for me, and when I look back, that’s putting it mildly. It was one of the few times in my life I wasn’t excited about going to ballparks, and if you know me that’s all you need to know.”
That sets the tone for pages worth of material that felt like a cathartic exercise.
He ‘simply wasn’t likable’
It was no secret then that Selig wasn’t thrilled that it was Bonds who was challenging Aaron’s 33-year-old record. Selig was hesitant to heap much, if any, praise upon Bonds due to his alleged PED use. It was also no secret that Selig looked up to Aaron as a friend and hero.
But while Selig’s personal feelings about Aaron and his concerns about Bonds’ alleged PED use helped shape his feelings on the chase, there was another factor in play. He really didn’t like Barry Bonds.
“Along the way, I had a lot of time to think about the differences between Barry Bonds, who simply wasn’t likable, and Henry Aaron, who had been such a giant on the field and now was the same way off the field, carrying himself with as much poise as humility. I have called myself a friend of Henry’s since 1958 and burst with pride every time I speak about him.”
Selig also opened up on persuading Aaron to record a message of congratulations that played moments after Bonds hit No. 756 on Aug. 7, 2007.
“He (Aaron) hadn’t been sure he wanted to do anything to commemorate the moment, but I persuaded him to record his congratulations, no matter the circumstance. I told Henry I felt it was the right thing to do, and Henry always did the right thing.”
The ‘steroid commissioner’
Among the other highlights in the excerpt released by Sports Illustrated, Selig addressed criticism he’s received for not cracking down on steroid use during his tenure.
I know some people will forever link me with Barry Bonds. Some will say baseball’s failure to limit the impact of steroids quicker is my failure. They may even call me the steroid commissioner.
That’s okay, I guess.
It’s not fair, I don’t like it, but I’ve come to understand it. Did I understand the dimension of the problem from the beginning? No. But did other longtime, well-respected executives, like John Schuerholz and Andy MacPhail? No, they didn’t, and they say that.
There’s a lot to digest in the excerpt, which you can read in full here.
Selig himself will probably never be the most liked person in the room, but his story and his perspective during a turbulent time in baseball’s history will certainly make for interesting reading.
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