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Commissioner Hank Aaron would have instituted interleague play, tried to impose a salary cap

Feb 26, 2013, 9:11 AM EDT

Hank Aaron AP AP

Yesterday I linked that story in which Ernie Banks talked about Hank Aaron “applying” to be the commissioner of baseball once upon a time. Last night my friend Jess Lemont sent me a news article from 1983 with some details about it.  Seems that was when he announced his desire to replace Bowie Kuhn, who had just recently announced his resignation under pressure from the owners.

Obviously Peter Ueberroth got the job. He then proceeded to break the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the law with his collusion schemes. That ended up costing the players and the owners hundreds of millions of dollars which in turn led to double expansion in the 1990s to pay for it.  Good going, Pete!

What might have happened if Aaron had gotten the job instead? My theory: the owners either would not have engaged in any greedy illegal schemes or else Aaron would have resigned in protest had they tried.  Short of that, though there there’s at least some evidence to suggest that, if he were commissioner, he might not have taken too different a course than Bud Selig took when he got the job in the early 90s. From the article, Aaron’s response when asked what changes he might institute as commissioner:

“A major one is Interleague play. We are denying fans of both leagues the opportunity to see outstanding players and teams.”

He added that he’d push for a uniform DH rule, though he doesn’t say if he’d prefer all DH or no DH. He also pushed for two-team expansion to get the leagues up to 14 teams each. Oh, and there’s this:

Aaron, currently the Braves’ director of player development, said he is not anti-player, but he supports placing a salary cap on teams’ payrolls.

He goes on to talk about how the Twins can’t compete without a salary cap because Calvin Griffiths doesn’t have the money to sign free agents. Never mind that, within eight years and a couple of months the Twins will have won two World Series. Whatever the case, this is on all fours with Selig’s talking points from 1994 through around 2002 or so, which led to the most destructive work stoppage in the sports’ history and nearly led to another.

Notably, Selig — a longtime close friend of Aaron — led the search committee that ultimately settled on Ueberroth over Aaron. He also promised Aaron the chance to talk to the committee. Given that they remain friends I’m guessing that it wasn’t him, but rather, other owners who “laughed” at Aaron’s candidacy, as Banks said.

Neat stuff. Thanks Jess!

  1. The Dangerous Mabry - Feb 26, 2013 at 9:16 AM

    Is there a joke I’m missing when you spell Ueberroth that way, or is it just an error? It seems like it might be intentional, but I’ve never seen the man referred to as Uberoff.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Feb 26, 2013 at 9:25 AM

      No, I’m just an idiot who didn’t sleep well last night. Fixed now.

      • cardinalcrazy - Feb 26, 2013 at 9:30 AM

        Don’t worry about it Craig, it won’t be your only mistake within the hour. But at least you fixed it!

      • historiophiliac - Feb 26, 2013 at 9:57 AM

        Was it the cat again?

    • paperlions - Feb 26, 2013 at 9:45 AM

      How’d he spell it? Uber-wroth?

  2. makeham98 - Feb 26, 2013 at 9:41 AM

    The owners would have walked all over poor Hank. He wouldn’t have lasted a year. Ted Turner wanted him to be successful with the Braves and gave him supportive opportunities. Would have been a lot different.

  3. plmathfoto - Feb 26, 2013 at 9:47 AM

    Ueberoth also polled the fans on whether or not they liked the dh. If I recall correctly, it was like 70% against. He claimed that was inconclusive. My greatest wish for him was for him to run for public office, win by that margin, then get denied because they claimed it was inconclusive (I’m pretty sure he didn’t even use inconclusive, something like didn’t show preference).

  4. ramrene - Feb 26, 2013 at 10:22 AM

    >Never mind that, within eight years and a couple of months the Twins will have won two World Series.

    Yeah, well…

    Hey Craig, tell me again how many World Series the Pirates and Royals won during that same time frame?

    • Craig Calcaterra - Feb 26, 2013 at 10:24 AM

      The Royals won the World Series two years after these comments. The Pirates had a streak of three straight division titles begin seven years later.

      What was your point again?

    • ezthinking - Feb 26, 2013 at 11:15 AM


  5. ck101 - Feb 26, 2013 at 10:31 AM

    I think fairness requires pointing out that (a) Calvin Griffith sold the Twins to Carl Pohlad in 1984, and (b) while the core of the 1987 champions consisted of players that were signed while the Griffith regime was in charge, Aaron’s comments need to be taken in the context of the times – the Twins in 1983 were perceived as hopeless largely because Griffith, as the last of the owners whose baseball team was his primary business, as opposed to something bought by someone who’d become wealthy through other avenues, simply could not pay competitive salaries. Had the ownership change not occurred it’s quite doubtful the ’87 and ’91 championships happen; exactly what would have happened is an interesting question, as the Griffith family simply could no longer operate a competitive team given the way the finances of hte game had changed.

    • The Dangerous Mabry - Feb 26, 2013 at 11:01 AM

      That’s totally fair and worth pointing out. Still, it sounds like an ownership change was a much more appropriate solution to the Twins’ problems than a complete restructuring of baseball’s finances.

  6. ezthinking - Feb 26, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    People cry about no loyalty from the players and then want a salary cap which only results in player movement to meet the cap.

    Proposing a salary cap evidences that he would have been a great commissioner for the owners and a real detriment to the players and the game.

  7. thepittsburghkid - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:05 PM

    I go back and forth on the salary cap issue. There is evidence to prove the league is competitive regardless of team salary. My only issue is that the smaller market teams can’t buy out of a bad free agency signing (Ex. Derek Bell 2 yrs. 9.75M or Kevin Young’s resigning 4 yrs. 24M). Those contracts bury a small market team for years.

    • ezthinking - Feb 26, 2013 at 1:03 PM

      Trouble is they can, they just don’t and cry poor. Look at the profits in the game, the revenue sharing and the team values. McCourt was “broke,” yet his team sold for 4-5 times what he paid for it despite the country going through repeated recessions. And he kept a profitable piece. The best evidence is that he made money during his ownership and then made a billion+ on the sale.

      Who does the salary cap benefit? Hold down labor costs – the biggest team expense and who gets the extra? Revenues are through the roof; 5-6-7 Billion a year. They won’t likely decline much. The new stadiums – save TB and Oak are built and ‘paid’ for – where’s the money go if not the players? Put in a salary cap, and the stadiums still fill and the prices don’t go down. Ask the NBA, NHL, & NFL.

      Show me where a salary cap has helped the game or the fans and not just the owners.

      • deadeyedesign23 - Feb 26, 2013 at 2:17 PM


        All a salary cap does is make labor subsidize millionaires in small markets crying little sisters of the poor.

      • bigharold - Feb 26, 2013 at 3:58 PM

        “Show me where a salary cap has helped the game or the fans and not just the owners.”

        More to the point, tell me why an owner needs to be protected from himself. Much of the upward pressure in the game is idiotic contracts given by owners that are suppose to be successful business man. Then guys like Tom Hicks gives out a ridiculous contract, .. 12 years ago, that was only eclipsed by the even dumber contract that replaced. I appreciate Carl Crawford’s ability but he was NEVER worth the contract they RS gave him. Albert Pujlos might have earned his contract and then some in St Louis but I doubt he’s going to age any better than A-Rod. The list just goes on and on.

        And, there isn’t a snow flakes chance in Hades that the Players Association is EVER going to sit still for anything that even looks like a salary cap. This Union has smacked the owners around every time the faced off so they absolutely will fight and likely prevail. The only time the Players Union backed down was over PED testing and that was only after it looked like Congress was going to get involved and perhaps set up a real testing program that was on par with Olympic athletes testing program. Before that the Union wouldn’t even protect “clean” players from PED users.

        I’m a Yankee fan so I’ll seem as if I’m more concerned with the Yankees not losing a competitive advantage but the fact is a salary cap will do nothing but make already wealthy owners vastly more wealthy. Poorly run teams will fail regardless of their resources. I’m 100% certain if players salaries were cut in half tomorrow you would not see ticket or cable subscription priced go down at all let alone significantly. I’d rather the players get it then already wealthy owners. At least the players will spend it.

  8. jessethegreat - Feb 26, 2013 at 8:05 PM

    And commissioner Aaron would have obviously allowed cheating. Just the amphetamines though, not steroids. Roids are unethical.

  9. dirtyharry1971 - Feb 26, 2013 at 10:26 PM

    Salary cap is a dumb idea that doesnt fix anything. Teams like the marlins, jays, and pirates year in and year out will not spend on player salary and instead stick their hand out as if they are in a bread line at the end of the season so this fixes nothing. Dh should be in both leagues, no questions asked, anyone who tries to argue that hates themselves, end of story.Chuck Norris would have been the best MLB Comish ever assuming he wanted the job in the first place, he would straighten things right out.

    • Kevin S. - Feb 27, 2013 at 8:28 AM

      Well, every league that has a cap does also have a floor, so they’d have to spend more than they are now. Doesn’t change the fact that it’s still nothing but a wealth transfer from players to owners.

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