NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The man who brought Major League Baseball back to Milwaukee in 1970, and who led the legislative fight to keep it there with the construction of Miller Park, received the sport's highest honor on Sunday, when Brewers founder Allan H. (Bud) Selig was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Selig, 82 and currently serving as MLB Commissioner Emeritus, was elected in his first year of eligibility by the Today's Game Era Committee, which also chose former Braves executive John Schuerholtz.
"When I got the call ... was a high honor, to say the least," said Selig in a conference call. "Many of you [on the call] have lived with me throughout this and know how I feel. The fact of the matter is, I've looked forward to this day for a long time and I'm really honored. I consider myself to be very fortunate to have had a career in a sport that I love."
Selig and Schuerzholz will also speak about the honor at the Winter Meetings on Monday at 10 a.m. CT, which can be seen live on MLB Network and MLB.com. The induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y., is scheduled for July 30, 2017.
"On behalf of everyone at the Milwaukee Brewers, I congratulate Commissioner Emeritus Selig on his election to the Hall of Fame, the highest honor in our sport," said Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, who took ownership reins from the Selig family in 2005. "The Commissioner's contributions to baseball are monumental: leading MLB in its continuing role as one of America's most influential social institutions on diversity and inclusiveness; forging labor peace with the players' union, which now will extend for more than 26 years with the agreement signed last week, and by overseeing unparalleled levels of competitiveness on the field. These achievements also significantly contributed to the vibrant economic health that Major League Baseball enjoys today.
"His determination and passion for our community and the game brought baseball back to Milwaukee in 1970 with the Brewers and later led to the building of Miller Park. The Commissioner remains one of the game's most revered advocates, and we are all proud to celebrate with him on this very special day."
Selig was the ninth Commissioner of Major League Baseball, having assumed the role of acting Commissioner in 1992 and taking over permanent status in 1998. He helped usher in a number of landmark changes in baseball, including the implementation of the Wild Card, the three-division format and Interleague Play. He also championed a new drug-testing program, revenue sharing among the clubs as well as ventures like MLB Advanced Media, the parent company of MLB.com, plus MLB Network and the World Baseball Classic.
Selig was born and raised on Milwaukee's west side and fell in love with baseball thanks to his mother, Marie, who introduced her son to the old Minor League Milwaukee Brewers at Borchert Field. He later cheered the Milwaukee Braves teams of Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn at County Stadium, so fervently that Selig became a minority owner of the team. He was among the many Milwaukeeans devastated when that franchise left for Atlanta following the 1965 season.
Twenty-nine years old at the time, Selig founded an entity called Teams, Inc. and spent the next five years trying to bring baseball back to his hometown.
He hoped to land an American League expansion team at the 1967 Winter Meetings, but Kansas City and Seattle were picked instead. Selig tried for a National League team a year later, but San Diego and Montreal won out. Months after that, Selig tried to buy the Chicago White Sox, but the deal fell through.
"There was disappointment and failure, but never defeat," Selig said.
Finally, there was success at 10:15 p.m. CT on March 31, 1970, when Selig learned that his group had won the Seattle Pilots in federal bankruptcy court. The Milwaukee Brewers were born, and seven days later, they were playing baseball.
Many times since then, Selig has said that of all his achievements, bringing the Brewers to Milwaukee remains his proudest moment.
Under Selig's watch, with general manager Harry Dalton, the Brewers became an American League powerhouse, winning more games from 1978-1982 than any other AL franchise.
"I think back to how this all started," Selig said. "To think that here I am going into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown… Only all of you who know me well can understand that, certainly my friends and family. Since I took the call there's been utter chaos over here. There still is."
The Brewers won the AL pennant in 1982 and won seven "Organization of the Year Awards" during Selig's tenure.
And Miller Park, after years of political wrangling, was built. The stadium opened its doors in April 2001, with Selig throwing one of the ceremonial first pitches.
"Bud Selig is my hero," Aaron said in 2010 at a ceremony dedicating a statue of Selig outside Miller Park. "He has taken baseball to a far better place than where he found it."
For that, Selig will be enshrined in Cooperstown.