After saying for six years that he wouldn't take the job, Bud Selig reportedly intends to become baseball commissioner and will call an owners' meeting in the next few weeks for a formal vote.
Selig supposedly made his intentions known after a group of owners approached him at last week's meetings in Seattle, according to a member of the sport's ruling executive council and a baseball lawyer, who both spoke on condition of anonymity.
"It's just a matter now of the timing," the council member said Thursday.
The 63-year-old Selig has been acting commissioner since owners forced out Fay Vincent in September 1992. Through two separate searches, one from September 1992 to January 1994, and another that began in January 1997, Selig repeatedly said he didn't intend to become commissioner and didn't want the job.
But he also repeatedly refused to rule out accepting it, and nearly all owners have assumed he eventually would be persuaded to become commissioner.
Selig, the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, issued a statement saying he hadn't decided anything, but the statement didn't deny that he eventually would become commissioner.
"There has been and continues to be much speculation that I will accept the position of commissioner, and many club owners have approached me about taking it," Selig's statement said. "There is a greater degree of urgency now, and the matter will have to be addressed soon."
"However, all such speculation is premature and the report that I have accepted the job is simply untrue," the statement said.
Colorado Rockies chairman Jerry McMorris, appointed in January 1997 as head of a search committee, had become frustrated at the widespread view in baseball that the search was fruitless.
"I knew it when I took the job to head the search committee that there was this chance," McMorris said in an interview. "There were always owners who wanted Bud, and my sense is that it's grown. We'll just have to see how this plays out."
The council member and the lawyer said an owners' meeting for the commissioner vote and a decision on 1999 schedule formats could be called either the week before or after the All-Star game, scheduled for July 7 in Denver.
Election requires a 75 percent vote of baseball's 30 owners and it has been clear for years that Selig would get wide backing if a vote were taken.
Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, Selig's good friend, plans to vote against Selig taking the job, the lawyer said. Reinsdorf believes an owner should not be commissioner and intends to cast the "no" vote on principle.
Union head Donald Fehr said he didn't expect that any decision by Selig would change the relationship between the owners and the players' association.
"If it's true, this would be a continuation of the administrative arrangements that have been in place," Fehr said. "The job that requires a lot of the day-to-day adminstrative arrangements of baseball is held by Paul Beeston, and our relationships have been improving."
Selig's daughter, Wendy Selig-Prieb, has been running the Brewers' day-to-day operations since he became acting commissioner. Baseball lawyers have said that if he becomes commissioner, he could put his share of the team into a trust benefiting Selig-Prieb and her newly born daughter Natalie.
Asked about a possible conflict of interest with the Brewers because of Selig's position, Fehr said, "You can certainly conjure up situations where it would be. But if the question you ask is whether it has been, it hasn't been at this point."
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