Gene Budig, last AL president, dies at 81

September 8th, 2020

Dr. Gene Budig, the last president of the American League, died Tuesday at age 81.

Budig was AL president from 1994-99, at which time the AL and NL were consolidated under the Commissioner's Office and the two separate league presidencies ceased to exist.

Following his career in Major League Baseball, Budig became an owner of the Charleston RiverDogs, a Yankees Class A Minor League affiliate, in 2007.

"Following his accomplished career in academia, Gene Budig became a friend to many in baseball," Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "Dr. Budig took great pride in his role as American League president, and continued to be in the game as part-owner of the Charleston RiverDogs. We appreciate his impact on students, his service to the Air National Guard, and his lifelong connection to our national pastime. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I send my deepest condolences to his wife Gretchen, their family, and his friends throughout our game."

While Budig was president of the AL, he presented the Yankees with the Commissioner's Trophy following their World Series wins in 1996, '98 and '99.

“We deeply mourn the passing of Gene Budig, a leading baseball executive who, for decades, helped to guide the sport," the Baseball Hall of Fame said in a statement. "As a member of the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors during his tenure as American League President, he had a demonstrated passion for our educational mission and provided valuable insights that continue to impact the Hall of Fame to this day. On behalf of the entire Board of Directors and Staff, we extend our sympathies to the Budig family.”

In 1995, Budig hired Larry Doby -- the first Black player to play in the American League when he debuted for the Indians in 1947 -- to his staff as a special assistant, noting, "Few have done more for Major League Baseball than Larry Doby."

After his tenure as AL president, Budig also was an MLB advisor who helped oversee the Pinstripe Bowl, a college football bowl game hosted at Yankee Stadium.

“Dr. Budig was a cherished friend of our family and someone my father respected immensely for his character, intellect and profound career accomplishments in higher education,” Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said, referring to late Yankees owner George M. Steinbrenner. “Over the last decade, I had the opportunity to work with him in establishing and growing the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, and quickly discovered why my father held him in such high regard. We personally share deeply in his loss and will always be grateful for his efforts in creating a permanent landmark for the Yankees, New York City and student-athletes from around the country.”

Outside of baseball, Budig was the president of two universities, Illinois State and West Virginia, and the chancellor of the University of Kansas. He was also a major general in the Air National Guard.