Bud Selig & Charles Steinberg’s Long-Standing Baseball Bromance

PawSox President Dr. Charles Steinberg
PawSox President Dr. Charles Steinberg, Photo Credit: Brendan McGair

The PawSox take on Rochester Friday, August 2nd at 7:00pm ET on YurView, Cox channels 4 and 1004 in Rhode Island.

How does an individual go about receiving a mention in the acknowledgments section of a book?

Would you believe a diamond vision video board lies at the core of a relationship that dates back some 30-plus years?

The book is titled For the Good of the Game and make no mistake, the words and stories belong entirely to Allan Huber “Bud” Selig, whose 22-year run as Major League Baseball’s Commissioner featured a little bit of everything in terms of powerful themes – from scandal, to labor unrest, to making sure small market franchises could drink from the same chalice as the clubs with deep pockets.

As PawSox president Dr. Charles Steinberg attested to during an interview one day last week, everything that appears in the 336-page tome is 100 percent accurate. When it comes to authenticating Selig’s prose, Steinberg would know best. From researching, to double-checking details, to clarifying, Steinberg played a key, behind-the-scenes role in helping Selig become a published author.

“I was an honored helper in compiling the information,” said Steinberg.

Hence, Steinberg was mentioned as someone who proved to be essential to Selig’s project seeing the light of day.

“For years he would say, ‘When I write my book …,'” said Steinberg. “There were friends of the commissioner who were skeptical that it would ever get done, but he’s got the last laugh. It’s done.”

Steinberg first crossed paths with Selig in 1985. At the time, Steinberg was working for his hometown Baltimore Orioles. A diamond vision video board was in the process of becoming part of the fan-viewing experience at the Orioles’ home ballpark at the time, Memorial Stadium. Steinberg was entrusted with the operation, thus beginning the process of taking trips to other ballparks to acquire a feel of what makes for a good video board.

One of Steinberg’s trips led him to Milwaukee. He met Selig, who at the time had an ownership stake in the Brewers, along with his daughter Wendy.

“We’ve been friends ever since,” noted Steinberg.

With each of the MLB ballclubs with which Steinberg has worked, he dealt with Selig in various ways. In San Diego, Steinberg recalled the commissioner playing a key role in getting Petco Park established. Selig was present at Fenway Park on July 22, 2002 when Steinberg organized the celebration of life for Ted Williams.

“There were many times when he came to Fenway and we would talk,” said Steinberg.

Photo Credit: Brendan McGair

When Steinberg left the Red Sox to go work for the Los Angeles Dodgers prior to the 2008 season, the dialogue with Commissioner Selig became more frequent – so much so that, in 2010, Selig invited Steinberg to work directly and personally for him out of his Milwaukee office. Officially, Steinberg held the title of Senior Advisor to the Commissioner of Baseball for Public Affairs.

It was during the two years (2010 & 2011) that Steinberg spent in Milwaukee that Selig began laying the groundwork for a book that would not get cranking in earnest until after he retired from the commissioner’s post. Early in 2012, with the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park looming, the Red Sox asked Selig if Steinberg could return to participate in the planning of a celebration of the first-ever century-old ballpark that’s still in operation.

“I loved working for the commissioner and told him that on January 17, 2012 when he informed me that the Red Sox sought my services,” said Steinberg. “Realizing he knew my feelings, he said, ‘I’ve always told you to do what’s best for the sport. This is a big deal.'”

When it comes to pregame ceremonies, Steinberg is a choreographer who leaves no stone unturned. Amidst a somber backdrop following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, Steinberg, with the power of the Red Sox brand behind him, had a vital hand in the city’s recovery efforts by honoring the marathon victims and various law enforcement agencies at Fenway.

From his office, Selig watched the aforementioned ceremony – best remembered for Red Sox slugger David Ortiz’s passion – and reached out to Steinberg afterwards.

“It was quite a moment,” said Steinberg. “He was proud of the role that baseball was playing in helping a community heal.”

The next few years saw Selig and Steinberg remain in touch. One day in March 2015, Selig went to lunch with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin, who wrote the forward for For The Good of the Game.

“They talked about the book with Doris recommending someone who would be a companion in the book’s development,” said Steinberg.

Selig and Goodwin agreed that Steinberg fit the bill.

“I was floored,” said Steinberg. “Of all the people you could ask to help the ninth commissioner in baseball tell his story, you would never think that a baseball-loving child from Baltimore would get picked. It was quite an honor.”

From there, Steinberg began making weekly trips to Milwaukee to listen attentively to Selig’s stories and take copious notes. Steinberg would accompany Selig on car rides to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where Selig taught a senior-elective class called “Baseball in American Society since World War II.” At Marquette University, Steinberg would sit in as Selig discussed the legal aspects of baseball with the school’s law students.

“You couldn’t help but learn firsthand so many stories that begin with his parents and brings you to the very present day,” said Steinberg. “You become a student of the commissioner’s legendary routines. He is as habitual as anyone you meet and he’ll say, ‘It’s worked out pretty well for me.'”

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Selig’s Milwaukee office is unique – the doors to the offices all meet, thus making communication unavoidable. From Steinberg’s perspective, those office sessions allowed him to see Selig in a completely different light than his public portrayal during his lengthy run as commissioner.

“The humor that he has is what people may not know. Only those who know him well know how hilarious he is,” said Steinberg. “He may be the best baseball fan I’ve ever met. You can go toe to toe with him on all 30 major-league teams and I wish you luck. He is knowledgeable top to bottom. He watches every game.”

Selig’s story didn’t come to a grinding halt the moment he passed the commissioner duties off to his successor, Rob Manfred, after the 2014 season. It kept evolving. When the Kansas City Royals won the 2015 World Series, it was seen as a victory for Selig’s stance on competitive balance. In 2016, Selig’s memoir added a new layer upon learning he had been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Said Steinberg, “His story is that for all the bats and balls, grass and dirt, sun and sky, baseball is a human game that depends on interpersonal skills, human dynamics, and the ability of people to subjugate their egos and recognize they need to do what is best for the good of the game.”

Steinberg was one of several contributors to Selig’s memoir who logged many hours – specifically, Steinberg spent every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in Milwaukee – in assembling an account that in 2018 was handed off to noted baseball writer Phil Rogers.

“Phil was the writer chosen to take the narrative, but now deepen and enhance it. Tease more out of the commissioner,” said Steinberg. “You’ve been led this far, but the story really needs to go this far. I told Phil that this is your writing, not mine.”

Now that Selig’s story is in hardcover format and available on book shelves, Steinberg can’t help but feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.

“What an honor to be a participant in the definitive record of without question the greatest commissioner we’ve ever had,” said Steinberg.

The PawSox take on Rochester Friday, August 2nd at 7:00pm ET on YurView, Cox channels 4 and 1004 in Rhode Island.

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