What he did: This is a story of two baseball owners, one a used car salesman from Milwaukee, the other a Texas oilman. After Major League Baseball commissioner Fay Vincent was forced to resign in 1992, these two men were looked at by the other owners as possible replacements. Bud Selig of course got the job and continues in it today, nearing his 20th anniversary of becoming commissioner. George W. Bush ran for governor of Texas and six years later, president. The rest is history.
Bush has said he felt God wanted him to lead the country. But it’s easy to see where his interests still lie, from a reference to steroids during his 2004 State of the Union Address to his presence at the World Series this year watching the team he owned in the late 1980s and early ’90s, the Texas Rangers. I haven’t been a huge supporter of Selig as commissioner, and in the interest of full disclosure, I wasn’t a fan of the Bush presidency either, though I’d have loved to see what he could’ve done in Selig’s place. Selig has seemed a pawn of the owners, presiding at times spinelessly over troubled stretches for baseball. Love him or hate him, Bush would never have gone for that.
Era he might have thrived in: I wish Bush had been commissioner instead of Selig, not just because it would have kept him away from the Oval Office. He’d have been an asset to baseball. And Bush might have done well heading up the sport at other points in its history, too. With his willingess to have two black Secretary of States, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, perhaps Bush would have stood tall like Happy Chandler against the owners of the mid-1940s who voted 15-1 against Jackie Robinson’s signing. Or Bush could have made an able successor for Ford Frick in the mid-1960s, a marked upgrade over the timid, forgotten William Eckert.
Why: Bush’s brazen approach to foreign policy alienated much of the world and, at least for me, made for eight long years. But this attitude could work well with baseball, where the best commissioners and leaders for the most part have been resolute in their rule and willing to stand up to owners, players, whoever.
Ban Johnson had all the charm of a czar and built the American League, the only upstart to the National League in baseball history that’s survived. Kenesaw Mountain Landis was as autocratic a commissioner as any past federal judge could be expected, sweeping in after the doomed 1919 World Series and ridding baseball of game-fixing scandals that were endemic in the early 1900s. I don’t like what Landis did to systematically keep blacks from the majors in his 20-plus years in office, though he essentially set the standard for commissioners. Others have followed suit in his ruthlessness. Ford Frick crushed the Continental League and helped ignite the expansion movement in the process. Bartlett Giamatti had the guts to ban Pete Rose.
I don’t know what Bush’s claim to fame would be as commissioner. But come to think of it, it isn’t too late for him to make his mark in baseball. Joe Torre just quit a league-level job to make a bid for the Dodgers (as, I would add, John F. Kennedy’s dad tried to do for him in the 1940s.) Maybe it’s time for Bush to see about Torre’s former gig. It would sure beat sitting on some board of directors, or whatever it is the former commander-in-chief is up to now.
Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.
Others in this series: Al Simmons, Albert Pujols, Babe Ruth, Bad News Rockies, Barry Bonds, Billy Beane, Billy Martin, Bob Caruthers, Bob Feller, Bob Watson, Bobby Veach, Carl Mays, Cesar Cedeno, Charles Victory Faust, Chris von der Ahe, Denny McLain, Dom DiMaggio, Don Drysdale, Eddie Lopat, Elmer Flick, Frank Howard, Fritz Maisel, Gavvy Cravath, George Case, George Weiss, Harmon Killebrew, Harry Walker, Home Run Baker, Honus Wagner, Hugh Casey, Ichiro Suzuki, Jack Clark, Jack Morris, Jackie Robinson, Jim Abbott, Jimmy Wynn, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Posnanski, Johnny Antonelli, Johnny Frederick, Josh Hamilton, Ken Griffey Jr., Lefty Grove, Lefty O’Doul, Major League (1989 film), Matty Alou, Michael Jordan, Monte Irvin, Nate Colbert, Ollie Carnegie, Paul Derringer, Pedro Guerrero, Pedro Martinez, Pee Wee Reese, Pete Rose, Prince Fielder, Ralph Kiner, Rick Ankiel, Rickey Henderson, Roberto Clemente, Rogers Hornsby, Sam Crawford, Sam Thompson, Sandy Koufax, Satchel Paige, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, The Meusel Brothers, Ty Cobb, Vada Pinson, Wally Bunker, Wes Ferrell, Will Clark, Willie Mays