Selig was flanked by members of the ownership group -- Tom Werner of the Red Sox, Bill Bartholomay of the Braves, Bill DeWitt of the Cardinals, Dave Montgomery of the Phillies and Paul Beeston of the Blue Jays. All are old friends and have been around for Selig's entire tenure, Werner as majority owner of the Padres back in the early 1990s.
"It's a great day for baseball," said Werner, who ultimately sold what was then a minority interest in the Padres after he became chairman of the Red Sox in 2002. "I think we're all very grateful that the Commissioner has agreed to do this. The Commissioner received a standing ovation, which was well deserved."
Because of a procedural issue, Selig said there would not be a full vote count of the owners on the contract extension for a 10-day period. The extension only crystallized this week and there wasn't enough time to place it on Thursday's official advance agenda, he said.
"This was a very emotional thing that happened over the weekend," Selig said. "So legally, we don't have a complete vote. But today a huge majority of the clubs turned in a 'yes' vote."
As in any vote of the 30 owners or representatives, Selig needed at least 75 percent for the extension to pass.
Selig, who replaced Fay Vincent as interim Commissioner on Sept. 9, 1992, was formally given the post on July 7, 1998, and last year finished his 19th full season as Commissioner. That run is second only to the 24 years served by Kenesaw Mountain Landis, baseball's first Commissioner, who was hired in 1920 in the wake of the Black Sox scandal and stayed on until his death in 1944. Selig is Major League Baseball's ninth Commissioner.
Selig said in 2008 that his current term through December 2012 would be his last and since then had publicly maintained that position. Under the circumstances, he joked about that turn of events on Thursday.
"My wife turned out to be right. I have to acknowledge that. Don't tell her I said that, but she did turn out to be right," Selig quipped. "I looked very much forward to teaching and doing a lot of things I wanted to do and I will find time to do that. As a kid, I grew up reading about Kenesaw Mountain Landis and now I see that I may do this longer than he did. That's rather remarkable, to say the least."
Selig, who will be 80 when the new deal ends, was the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, the team he helped purchase and move from Seattle in 1970, at the time he became interim Commissioner. His family has since divested itself of the franchise. Mark Attanasio purchased the Brewers in 2004.
Under his watch, Selig won approval for Interleague Play, prompting a move of the Brewers from the American League to National League in 1998, plus the creation of three divisions and a Wild Card playoff berth in each league. He also led the way for the current unbalanced schedule, the World Baseball Classic and international recognition of the sport, performance-enhancing drug testing of Major League players beginning in 2003, and the awarding of home-field advantage in the World Series to the winning league in the All-Star Game, also starting in 2003.
"I've been in baseball for over 50 years," Bartholomay, the Braves chairman emeritus, said. "I have a picture of me sitting on Landis' knee if anyone wants me to produce it. This is fantastic leadership we've had here and it's just recognition of not only the job he's done, but the plans we have for the future. Baseball is on a roll here. It's international. He's our leader. He's going to be with us until 2014. We're proud to have him."
As part of the latest labor agreement, the Astros will move from the NL to the AL prior to the 2013 season. Also, MLB will add two more Wild Card teams, making for two in each league that will play a one-game playoff to advance in the postseason.
MLB has until March 1 to tell the MLB Players Association whether it wants to commence the new format this coming season. Selig said on Thursday that he was very hopeful that would come to pass, adding to his long list of accomplishments.
"I said this to the owners today and I say this to you: I didn't do this. We did this together. They've been remarkable," Selig said. "The cooperation I've had has been amazing. Years ago, the Commissioner was fighting with owners. The owners didn't like the Commissioner. Everyone was mad at the union. And as a result, nothing happened. It's no wonder that with this cooperation we've gotten so many things done over the past 20 years."