"I congratulate the Hall of Fame for electing five new members," Selig said in a statement. "I am particularly pleased that former Commissioner Bowie Kuhn is among those who have received this great honor. Bowie was a close friend and a respected leader who served as Commissioner during an important period in history, amid a time of change."During Kuhn's reign, baseball grew from a sport with 10 teams in each league to a multi-divisional format with a round of playoffs preceding the World Series. And as television network involvement and payouts grew, games in the Fall Classic ultimately began to be played in primetime at night to increase visibility and commercial appeal.
Kuhn battled with owners and players alike, suspending Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner for his illegal contributions to President Nixon's 1972 re-election campaign and swatting irascible A's owner Charlie Finley by negating the 1976 multimillion-dollar sales of players Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers to Boston and Vida Blue to the Yankees, citing the Commissioner's power to rule "in the best interest of baseball."
Under his watch, the owners and the union, guided by executive director Marvin Miller, battled incessantly. A work stoppage came as part of every collective bargaining season, culminating in the 1981 strike that took a 50-day, 171-game chunk out of the regular season and split it into halves.
He also barred Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays from employment in baseball for their associations with an Atlantic City, N.J., casino, suspensions that later were rescinded by Peter Ueberroth after Kuhn left office.Ultimately, the support for Kuhn eroded after the 1981 strike as the owners kept losing ground to the players. In 1982, a group of owners organized a movement to push Kuhn out of baseball. The end came a year later when they refused to extend his contract, opting instead to hire Ueberroth, who had just concluded a successful tour as head of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Committee.
Ueberroth was succeeded by Bart Giamatti, who passed away in office in 1989; Fay Vincent; and Selig. Selig, 73, then the majority owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, took over as the interim Commissioner in September 1992, and he has been in the job ever since.
Kuhn passed away in March having been unable to reach the Hall of Fame on the 2007 Veterans Committee ballot.
Kuhn received 17.3 percent of the vote as his name appeared on 14 of the 81 ballots cast. He needed 61 votes. On the previous ballot in 2003, Kuhn received just 20 votes from the 79 members of the Veterans Committee, 25.3 percent.
But with the restructuring of the committee, eight months after his death, Kuhn's moment came.
"We were fearful he was being overlooked," Stephen Kuhn said. "It just was his time now. And we're extremely thankful for that."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.