"We're very happy," Selig told the media after the last quarterly Owners' Meeting of the year ended. "When he walked back in [to the meeting room] he got a big ovation. And I say this to a lot of people, 'That's the last one you'll get.'"
The two sons of George Steinbrenner, who will retain his title as team chairman, were put in those positions formally earlier this year. The elder Steinbrenner bought the Yankees on Jan. 3, 1973, and his ownership is the longest current one running among MLB's 30 franchises. Under his stewardship, the Yanks have won six of their record 26 World Series championships.
The move was approved at an ownership committee meeting on Wednesday and then passed unanimously on Thursday at the joint session of all 30 owners or their representatives.
The latest change in the team's business structure comes as the Yankees are awaiting word from free-agent left-hander CC Sabathia regarding whether he'll accept an offer from the Yankees, reported to be for six years and $140 million. On the day when right-hander Mike Mussina announced his retirement, the Yanks also are pursuing free-agent pitchers Derek Lowe and A.J. Burnett.
"As I said at the meeting, I appreciate the confidence that Commissioner Selig and the rest of the owners have in me," Hal Steinbrenner said. "I realize it's a great responsibility. Needless to say, my dad is a tough act to follow. But I'm going to do it to the best of my ability and give it my all every day. I certainly won't make light of the magnitude of it."
Selig was first made aware of the elder Steinbrenner's intentions when he and his wife, Sue, had dinner with Steinbrenner and his wife, Joanne, at their Tampa home prior to Game 2 of the World Series this past October.
"Obviously the four of us have been friends for a long time," said Selig, who headed a group that purchased the Seattle Pilots and moved them to Milwaukee just in time for the 1970 season. "We stayed a long time. George and I had a brief conversation. He made the request. I said we'd act upon it very quickly, so here we are less than a month later."
Since the elder Steinbrenner handed over the day-to-day operations of the club he has been seen less and less at the ballpark. In the last season at the old Yankee Stadium, his final public appearance was at the July 15 All-Star Game. The old yard closed without him on Sept. 21, and the Yankees failed to make the playoffs for the first time since a strike wiped out the 1994 postseason.
"He's been slowing down for the last couple of years," Hal Steinbrenner said of his 78-year-old father. "For the last two years, I've been intimately involved with all departments and all aspects of the company. It's what I've been doing day-to-day. My duties really aren't going to change, and my work days really aren't going to change much.
"It's as much a procedural thing within the family, at this point."
As his father had in the not-too-distant past, Hal Steinbrenner splits his time between Tampa and New York. But with a new $1.3 billion stadium nearing completion across 161st Street from the old one, he's expected to be more of a fixture at home games when the new ballpark opens next year.
"I think Hal is a little shy about this, but the last few years he's been in New York every single week," said Yankees president Randy Levine. "He's on top of everything. George is still going to be involved. This is really a codification -- with the Commissioner's help and input -- of what's been going on the last several years."