Selig thoroughly enjoying emotional week
Commissioner honors Yankees icon Jeter; honored by hometown Brewers
BOSTON -- As weeks go, this surely has been among the best Commissioner Bud Selig has ever had.
"Emotional," he said.
That and more.
First, there was the celebration of Derek Jeter's career at Yankee Stadium. Selig personally honored Jeter on Wednesday in New York with the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award, then watched the final home game on television on Thursday.
"I think you guys know how I feel about the history of this sport," Selig said. "That was just a remarkable day."
As a surreal ninth inning unfolded, Selig began to have a lingering thought.
"I said to myself, 'This couldn't happen,'" he said.
Indeed, a lot of people had the same thought about Jeter delivering one last walk-off moment.
Could he deliver again?
Would the baseball gods give us this gift?
"If you wrote a script like that, they'd throw it out," Selig said. "I cannot tell you the meaning of that game the other night. It has really affected me profoundly."
Selig was so moved by Jeter's game-winning hit -- and the celebration that followed -- that he was unable to sleep. So he pulled out a sheet of paper and began writing down the names of baseball's greatest heroes, generation by generation.
"All I could think of was how fortunate we are to have our iconic heroes be the kind of people they are," he said. "We've really been lucky. I've told Derek this. Forget his on-field stuff. His off-field [work] is just remarkable. In this day and age, in the type of society we live in, it's a remarkable story. It's a great tribute to him, as [Hank] Aaron was, as [Stan] Musial was."
Selig was chatting with a group of Yankees front office employees on Wednesday when a door opened and in walked Jeter, who presented the Commissioner with a picture of Joe DiMaggio -- Selig's favorite player growing up -- with a handwritten DiMaggio note attached to it.
Upon seeing Jeter, Selig offered another impromptu tribute.
"I told them this in front of him," Selig said. "We're blessed in baseball to have him. His parents did a magnificent job. We're blessed to have somebody [like that] who becomes the face of our sport. He is the face of our sport. That face transcended everything else. He came to play hard every day. In this kind of a world, you treasure these kind of people, and I treasure Derek Jeter -- his work ethic, integrity, professionalism."
Selig had another emotional day on Friday, when he visited Miller Park, where Brewers owner Mark Attanasio retired No. 1 in Selig's honor. That was an appropriate tribute since it was Selig's tireless work that brought baseball back to Milwaukee in 1970, then got Miller Park built for the 2001 season.
And then on Friday night, after all of that, Selig got home in time to watch the Royals clinch their first playoff appearance in 29 years.
From the beginning, one of his primary goals as Commissioner was to create an economic environment in which every team had a chance to compete.
In the past three seasons, 14 of 30 teams have played at least one postseason series, and the Royals could join that list by winning the American League Central or the AL Wild Card Game.
To Selig, it's critically important to have the Royals, Pirates, Orioles, Rays, A's and other smaller-market teams in the postseason.
All of this comes at a time when Selig, like Jeter, is saying his goodbyes. Fenway Park is the 22nd ballpark Selig has visited this season, and he began Saturday with a 50-minute question-and-answer session with Red Sox employees.
Before he turns the office over to Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred in January, Selig will have met with all 30 clubs. He said his tour was a chance to say thanks to the people who've worked so hard to make baseball what it is today.
But it's also a celebration of Selig, and a chance for a lot of people to say thanks to him. The Red Sox honored him on the field before Saturday's game against the Yankees, including a video montage of an array of baseball highlights during his 22 years on the job.
"I have great memories here," Selig said. "It's not a secret that Wrigley Field and Fenway Park are my two favorite ballparks. I love all the new ballparks, but it's stunning to me the way [these have] been able to be preserved. I remember the 1999 All-Star Game, sitting with Ted Williams for five innings. It gives me chills walking through here."
Selig's legacy is breathtaking, from labor peace and competitive balance to record-setting attendance, Wild Card playoff berths, Interleague Play, affirmative-action initiatives and a generation of new ballparks.
Now, as he makes a final tour as Commissioner, he's awash in memories.
"I must say I've enjoyed these [visits] a great deal," he said. "The thing I enjoy the most is talking to the front office. All the things that have happened the past 22-23 years, I want to be able to say thank you. They've been very emotional, including this morning's. Someone asked me again the other day what I'm going to miss the most. Starting in 1964 -- so we're talking a long time. It's all the relationships, an amazing human experience. This ballpark has a lot of memories for me in many, many ways."
Trips to Fenway spark two memories.
One is of 1949, when Selig's mother brought him to the park -- a trip during which they were unable to get a ticket. Thirty years later, as the owner of the Brewers, he brought his mom back.
As they walked through the gates, "She said to me, 'It's a little different this time,'" Selig said.
Returns to Fenway also spark memories of Selig's close friend, the late former Commissioner Bart Giamatti.
"I know how much he loved Fenway," Selig said. "He said baseball's a metaphor for life."
Which is what this week has been about, a week of emotion and celebration, a week perfect almost beyond description.
"Thursday night was one of those nights that makes you proud to be Commissioner of Baseball," Selig said.