Schuerholz, Selig meet the media as Hall of Famers

Written by: Bill Francis

Less than 24 hours after receiving news of their baseball immortality, Bud Selig and John Schuerholz seemed both overjoyed and overwhelmed at the prospect of having bronze likenesses of themselves in Cooperstown.

The voting results of the 16-member Today’s Game Era Committee were announced by National Baseball Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson live Sunday night, Dec. 4, via the MLB Network. The two new electees, who each received more than the required 75 percent of votes cast, came from a ballot of 10 candidates whose contributions came from 1988 through the present. Schuerholz was named on all 16 ballots, while Selig received 15 votes.

During a Winter Meetings press conference with Selig and Schuerholz held Monday at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., the pair of longtime baseball executives would share with the assembled media their thoughts on becoming the 313th and 314th members of one of sport’s most elite fraternities.

“They have both served baseball with great integrity and great success,” began Hall of Fame Chairman Jane Forbes Clark, introducing for the very first time the two as members of the Hall of Fame. “They now join the ranks of the all-time greats of the game, and we are so happy to welcome them to Cooperstown.”

Who could ever expect to live this dream, where your career ends with a call that says you’ve been elected to the Hall of Fame?

John Schuerholz, on election to Hall of Fame Class of 2017

Schuerholz, who spent the last half century building winning teams, broke in with the Baltimore Orioles in 1966 and moved to the expansion Kansas City Royals in 1969. In 1981, the Royals promoted him from farm director to general manager, making him at the time the youngest general manager, at age 41, in history. After he put together the 1985 team that won the first World Series for the Royals, he moved to the Atlanta Braves in 1990 as general manager – and one year later the team won the first of 14 consecutive full-season division titles. His 1995 Braves team beat Cleveland to win the World Series.

“Thank you ladies and gentlemen for being here on this very exciting moment in my life, the most exciting in my professional career,” the 76-year-old Schuerholz said. “How fitting it is for me to be inducted along with Commissioner Selig. We have worked together on a number of major projects in Major League Baseball thanks to his insistence year after year. He thought I would be a good committee chairman for every committee he ever came up with, and so we got to know each other real well and had mutual respect.”

John Schuerholz (left) and Bud Selig will be inducted with the Class of 2017 this summer in Cooperstown. (Jean Fruth / National Baseball Hall of Fame)

In Schuerholz’s 26 years as general manager of the Royals and Braves, his teams won 2,348 games, an average of more than 90 wins per season. He constructed 16 division-winning teams, six pennant-winning teams and became the first general manager to build world championship teams in both the American and National League. He later became president of the Braves and is currently the team’s vice chairman.

“I’m so very honored by this,” Schuerholz said. “It is the highlight of my professional career, obviously. I’ve enjoyed some success with organizations because of good people. And I join the greatest good people in our industry in the Hall of Fame.

“And I’m so very, very proud of that and honored by that and I hope that I will live up to the standards that the folks in the Hall of Fame have set,” added Schuerholz, who joins five other team architects with Hall of Fame plaques: Ed Barrow. Lee MacPhail, George Weiss, Branch Rickey and Pat Gillick. “I never dreamed that this would happen to me. And if this is a dream I hope that I don’t wake up from it because this is the sterling moment in my life, the Shangri-La, if you will, of my dreams, baseball’s Hall of Fame.”

John Schuerholz said that he never expected "to live this dream, where your career ends with a call that says you’ve been elected to the Hall of Fame." (Jean Fruth / National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Prior to making their initial statements to the press, both new electees were presented with and were soon adorning white jerseys for the best team they’ve ever been associated with – as “Hall of Fame” was spelled out in bold red letters across the chest.

“Who could ever expect to live this dream, where your career ends with a call that says you’ve been elected to the Hall of Fame?” Schuerholz said to a contingent of Atlanta media after the press conference. “Here I am now with this jersey on that says ‘Hall of Fame’ across the front. Pretty remarkable.”

Allan H. “Bud” Selig had a profound impact on big league baseball over the last quarter century. As a minority owner of his hometown Milwaukee Braves before the team moved to Atlanta, he was instrumental in bringing the big league game back to Milwaukee with the purchase of the expansion Seattle Pilots in March of 1970. Seven days after the Pilots purchase, the team became the Milwaukee Brewers, and he owned them for the next 28 years. Appointed acting commissioner by his fellow team owners on Sept. 9, 1992, the interim title was removed July 9, 1998, and overall he served 22 years as commissioner, second longest tenure in major league history behind Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

“I’ve done a lot of thinking in the last week or so. Some of you who know me well know if was a little on the nervous side,” said an emotional Selig, currently MLB’s Commissioner Emeritus, in his introductory remarks. “But when I think of myself as a kid growing up, and in your wildest dreams you couldn’t imagine that the things that would happen to me for the last 40-50 years have happened, certainly the last 25. And so this is not only the greatest honor that I’ve ever received, there isn’t any question about that, but to be included in the Hall of Fame in a sport that I love it really has left me almost speechless. I’m never speechless but almost speechless.”

During his time in the commissioner’s office, Selig oversaw the 1993 and 1998 expansions, advent of the Wild Card and divisional playoffs, the creation of interleague play and the World Baseball Classic, the introduction of replay for umpires, and the start of two major media platforms: MLB Advanced Media and the MLB Network. He inherited a $1.2 billion business in 1992 and when he left it had grown into a $9 billion industry.

“And I do want to say about my friend John Schuerholz, it is true we have worked together a long time. A lot of the things that we have talked about here today took place as a result of the work that he and I did together. And he did brilliant work,” added Selig, just the fifth commissioner in history to be elected to the Hall of Fame and the first since Bowie Kuhn in 2008. “When I left the commissionership and I look back on all the things that have happened, I didn’t think that anything could eclipse that. Well, last night did and today has and I’m sure the rest of my existence will. This is an absolutely magnificent moment in one’s life and I’m just today very, very grateful.”

Selig and Schuerholz will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 30 – Selig’s 83rd birthday – in Cooperstown along with any electees that emerge from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voting, results of which will be announced at 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday, January 18, 2017, live on MLB Network.

The 2017 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will be held at 1:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 30, part of Hall of Fame Weekend, July 28-31. The Weekend festivities will also feature the presentation of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for writers and the presentation of the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence.

Bill Francis is a Library Associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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