SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Commissioner Bud Selig's contract has been extended by Major League Baseball's 30 owners for three years, taking him through the 2012 season.
The decision was made in an executive council meeting on Wednesday and was ratified by the collective owners on Thursday, making the new deal the biggest news of this year's first quarterly meetings.
Selig was asked to step out of Wednesday's executive council meeting as the select owners on that board voted to secure the new terms of his position. When the doors swung open and Selig returned to the room, he was awarded a loud standing ovation.
The owners endorsed Selig, who replaced the deposed Fay Vincent on an interim basis on Sept. 9, 1992, on the heels of the release last month of the Mitchell Report, the result of an investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. At Tuesday's four-hour Congressional hearing on Capitol Hill, the Commissioner was commended by a number of elected officials for having the foresight to seek former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell to spearhead the investigation.
Selig, 73, just finished his 15th full season as Commissioner. As a business, the sport has never done better, setting records last season in gross revenue ($6.1 billion) and total attendance (79.5 million). Projections right now are for attendance to easily soar over the 80 million ticket mark in 2008.
Selig had said a few years ago that he would retire at the end of his current term, which was set to expire after the 2009 season. But last year he backed off that assessment a bit when asked about it, saying "you never say never about anything."
Similarly, in 2003 he also mused that he would probably retire at the end of his term, but on Aug. 17, 2004, the owners extended him through 2009.
Selig, who once owned the Milwaukee Brewers, was given the job as Commissioner permanently on July 7, 1998, and since then has presided over unparalleled labor peace and an economic sea change in a sport that was barely generating more than $1 billion a year in revenue at the time he took over as baseball's ninth Commissioner.
Under his watch, Selig fought for and won approval for Interleague Play, the consolidation of the American League and National League under one office, the three-division format and a Wild Card berth in each league, the unbalanced schedule, worldwide recognition of the sport, steroids testing of Major League players beginning in 2003 and home-field advantage in the World Series for the winning league in the All-Star Game.
For the third time, MLB is slated to open its regular season in Japan, with the A's set to match the defending World Series champion Red Sox in March at Tokyo Dome. Also in March, the Padres and Dodgers are projected to play exhibition games in Beijing, the first time Major League games will be played in China.
And in 2009, the second World Baseball Classic is scheduled to be played, capitalizing on its popular inaugural in 2006.
To be sure, it hasn't always been sugar and roses. Early on Selig's watch, MLB was fractured by the 1994 player strike that abruptly ended that season, led to the cancellation of the World Series and delayed the start of the 1995 season. But it was the last event of its kind.
In 2002, the owners and players avoided the ninth consecutive work stoppage over three decades when they signed a four-year Basic Agreement that distributed revenue more liberally from the big-revenue clubs to the smaller ones. Likewise in 2006, the two sides extended the agreement for six years, assuring labor peace through 2012, which coincidentally coincides with the expiration of the Commissioner's latest contract.