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Stepping Up to the Plate: Milwaukee County

Bud Selig ’56 has devoted his life to building up his hometown, Milwaukee.

August 04, 2017
Bud Selig
Commissioner emeritus of baseball Allan H. "Bud" Selig is pictured during a studio portrait and interview at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Feb. 23, 2015. Selig, who graduated from UW-Madison in 1956, has been selected to receive a 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award, presented by the Wisconsin Alumni Association (WAA). (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

On the night of March 31, 1970, a business group led by Allan H. “Bud” Selig ’56 changed the course of history in his hometown of Milwaukee by purchasing a Major League Baseball team out of a bankruptcy court in Seattle. “I couldn’t believe it had happened because the odds … were really stacked against us,” Selig recalls. “Of all the things I’ve been through, I’ll always be proudest of bringing baseball back to Milwaukee.”

Before that moment, though, Selig had never really dreamt of owning a sports franchise.

He graduated from UW–Madison in 1956 with a dual major in history and political science, and he thought he’d be a professor of history — American history, particularly from the Civil War to the present.

But Selig was not destined to teach history — at least not yet — but to make it. He would go on to run the Milwaukee Brewers from 1970 to 1992. He then served as the chair of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Executive Council, and, in 1998, he was named MLB’s ninth commissioner.

Selig remained true to Milwaukee throughout, even moving the commissioner’s office to the city while Major League Baseball’s headquarters remained in New York City.

He has often credited the education he received at the UW with helping him to analyze complex situations and make sound decisions in business, both as the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers and later as the MLB’s commissioner.

“Of all the things I’ve been through, I’ll always be proudest of bringing baseball back to Milwaukee.”

On January 24, 2015, Selig stepped down from his commissioner post and became the MLB’s first-ever commissioner emeritus. Just months later, he received another honor: a Distinguished Alumni Award, presented by the Wisconsin Alumni Association. On July 30, 2017, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

In his retirement, Selig has given guest lectures at UW–Madison and co-teaches a class with Professor David McDonald called Baseball and American Society since World War II. He’s also been writing his memoirs on campus.

Along with those activities, Selig has established two endowed chairs in the UW Department of History and helped to fund the UW Department of Athletics’ new student-athlete performance facility, which includes the Bud Selig Hall of Champions Welcome Center. And in 2010, three Major League Baseball owners created a Great People Scholarship — part of a need-based student-aid program — to honor Selig and his wife, Suzanne.

“For me, the thing that gives me the greatest satisfaction is to think I was fortunate enough to be the custodian of the national pastime for my generation.”

Thank you, Milwaukee County, for Bud Selig, who did more than bring back baseball back to Milwaukee. He helped to keep the city on the national stage, and in the process, he showed that dreams are worth fighting for.

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