COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- If indeed there is no crying in baseball, a sentiment popularized by a classic line from the movie "A League of Their Own," then surely there is no booing in Cooperstown. But, as Bud Selig, could attest, there was a little of both during the 78th Hall of Fame induction ceremony July 30.
As the game's ninth commissioner, Selig presided over a period of unprecedented financial growth and ushered in a sorely needed era of labor peace that included an overdue drug testing program. But for the general public it wasn't enough to hide the two black marks of his tenure -- the strike that left the 1994 season without a World Series and the so-called Steroid Era that demolished home run records and eventually led to the testing agreement.
Selig was one of two executives inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame, along with Baltimore native John Schuerholz, and former players Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez. To say Selig got a lukewarm reception from a crowd of approximately 27,500, you would have to tune out the smattering of boos that accompanied his introduction -- perhaps the first time an HOF inductee got less than a positive reaction.
To his credit, while making sure to address the progress the game has made, Selig didn't ignore the lingering effect the 1994 season and the Steroid Era have on his legacy. He called the impact of the 1994 season the worst time of his life, a feeling shared by a significant contingent from Montreal, who were on hand to salute Raines' career with the Expos.
Many observers believe Montreal was the best team in baseball and headed to the World Series in 1994 -- and when the season was suspended without champions in either league, it signaled the beginning of the end of Major League Baseball in Montreal and led to the Expos eventually moving to Washington.
It was also significant Selig went out of his way to praise the late Michael Weiner, former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, who was instrumental in agreeing to the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement that included blood testing for Human Growth Hormone.
Perhaps because many in baseball had turned a blind eye to the impending effect of steroids and HGH, that era undoubtedly was well under way when Selig became "acting commissioner" in 1992, succeeding Fay Vincent, who had a short and tempestuous term following the death of Bart Giamotti. Had Giamotti, who was a close personal friend and mentor, lived to serve even a nominal term, Selig most likely would have been little more than an active owner. Instead, after a four-year crash course that included the devastating labor strife of 1994, he became the second longest tenured commissioner in history.
Most of the owners who endured the fallout of the 1994 season believe the repercussions of that development led to what has become the longest stretch of labor peace since the first strike in 1972. But whether the pluses outweighed the minuses for baseball, it was evident July 30 that fans still consider the lost World Series of 1994 more important than anything good that may have resulted.
It's an era, much like the one that produced performance-enhancing drugs, that remains the biggest black mark for baseball since the gambling scandal in 1919. Within the industry, Selig gets extremely high marks for guiding baseball through a series of crises and controversies -- but there are hard-core fans who put 1994 and steroids together under his watch. And, oh yes, let's not forgot the 2002 All-Star game that ended in a tie -- in Selig's home town of Milwaukee, no less -- and resulted in a tumultuous 14-year debate over the merits of the game determining home-field advantage for the World Series.
Which is why there was some booing in Cooperstown.
Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com