Selig honored in Philly for dedication in fighting cancer
Award from Wistar Institute highlights busy day in Philly for Commissioner
PHILADELPHIA -- During a routine examination 10 years ago, doctors discovered a lesion on Bud Selig's forehead. It turned out to be cancerous, but it was removed and baseball's Commissioner made a full recovery.
"I was more fortunate than most, and I knew it. The experience gave me a greater perspective and also made me more determined to find a way for the national pastime to help defeat a disease that has affected us all," Selig said Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park, where he received the Wistar Institute President's Award, given annually to an individual who has personally been touched by cancer, educates others about the disease and advocates for cancer research.
The Commissioner had a full day in Philadelphia. In addition to the Wistar luncheon in the Diamond Club, he conducted a town hall meeting with Phillies employees, met with the media, mingled with ticket holders and dropped in on the broadcast booth during the Phillies' game against the Rockies.
He also took time to visit the National Museum of American Jewish History in Center City, where he saw the "Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming an American" exhibit.
Selig, who has announced that he will step down in January after 22 years on the job, is attempting to visit each of the 30 Major League parks before the end of the season. Philadelphia was his fifth stop so far.
At each park he's wowed the employees and, according to several people who attended, Wednesday was no exception.
Even before Selig's firsthand experience with melanoma, baseball had conducted its own Play Sun Smart program in conjunction with the American Academy of Dermatology. That program raises awareness about skin cancer and emphasizes the significance of prevention and early detection. For the past several seasons, MLB has used Mother's Day as a platform to raise money to combat breast cancer and Father's Day to fight prostate cancer and advocated for a ban on smokeless tobacco.
It was in 2008, at Selig's urging, however, that baseball became a founding donor for Stand Up To Cancer. More than $40 million has been donated to date.
"As someone who once had a diagnosis that changed my life, I have such admiration for the extra work of the Wistar Institute in advancing the field of biomedical research," Selig said. "[This is] a cause that became very personal to me almost exactly a decade ago."
Phillies president Dave Montgomery, one of Selig's closest friends among the ownership ranks, was unable to be at the ballpark on Wednesday. He's recovering from jaw cancer surgery. The Commissioner talked to Montgomery on the phone and extended get-well wishes to him on several occasions during his day.
Selig touched on another related theme that has been an underpinning of his stewardship.
"I constantly say that our game is a social institution with important social responsibilities," he said. "It is incumbent on all of us who work in baseball to live up to those responsibilities that accompany our game. Even after being in this profession for over a half a century now, it never ceases to amaze me what remarkable opportunities we have to touch the communities in which our teams play."
He proudly noted that the Phillies are active in a variety of charitable endeavors, such as Lou Gehrig's Disease, homelessness, the Police Athletic League, and that several players, including Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels and Chase Utley, support foundations that support various worthy causes.
During Selig's news conference, many of the questions centered on the ongoing search for his replacement. He was understandably reluctant to provide specifics, noting that he has appointed a committee to make recommendations.
"To get the best candidates you'd better do it quietly, sensitively and thoughtfully," he said. "I'm confident this committee will come up with names ... and confident in this process. I'm not the least bit concerned."
Asked his impressions of a Phillies organization that has missed the playoffs the past two years after winning five straight National League East titles, he offered a reminder that competitive balance is a good thing and pointed out that 26 of 30 teams have appeared in the postseason the past 10 years.
"As a guy who has been raised in baseball, every organization and every team has its ups and downs," he said. "The system was actually built that way. You'll have good years, you'll have bad years. You'll have a good cycle and maybe not so good. But I have great faith in this organization. They had a long period of success and they'll have it again."
He also reiterated that he thinks the early stages of expanded instant replay have gone remarkably well and that baseball is constantly looking at ways to improve the system; that he is keeping a close eye on pace-of-game issues; favors an international Draft; and has no problem with one league having the designated hitter and the other not employing it.
And he was asked what accomplishment he's most proud of.
"I'm starting to get asked that a lot. I'm proud of a lot of things," he said. "Nobody could have dreamed in the '70s, '80s and '90s that we'd have 21 years of labor peace, given the fact that we'd had eight labor stoppages.
"But the economic reformation of the game is the most important thing. In the early '90s we had a system that just didn't work. And it was painful. I used to say when I took over we were in the Ebbets Field, Polo Grounds days. And since I'm here in Philly, I can add Shibe Park. I don't want to diminish the Wild Cards and the scheduling and labor peace and Baseball Advanced Media. That's a great success story. But the economic reformation of the game was critical."
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.