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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!

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