GOODBYE MR. COMMISSIONER

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Bowie Kuhn

Bowie Kuhn was the Commissioner of MLB from 1969 to 1984. This was the time of my youth, when I came to know and love baseball. I was touched upon learning of his March 15th death. Somehow it seemed Kuhn should’ve been older than 80, he’s been out of office for over 20 years, and he seemed old back then. Oh, how perceptions change.

Bowie’s reign was not without controversy. He denied Curt Flood’s request to become a free agent, when Flood challenged the reserve clause rather than report to the Philadelphia Phillies. He reinstated Mike Andrews to the Oakland A’s roster during the 1973 World Series, Charles O. Finley forced Andrews to sign an affidavit saying he was injured after Mike made two errors in the 12th inning of game #2. He voided the sale of A’s players for $3.5 million to the Yankees & Red Sox, saying it was bad for baseball.

There were also racial issues. In 1971 when the decision was made to induct Negro Leagues players into the Hall of Fame, Kuhn stated their plaques should be in separate wing, public outcry resulted in Negro Leagues players’ plaques to be included with the others. Bowie was not on hand to see Hank Aaron break Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record. He added Carl Yastrzemski to the 1983 All Star Game, Yaz’ last season, but did not do the same thing for Willie Stargell in 1982.

This story about Bowie Kuhn on drugs is classic. After being in office for over ten years, Kuhn had grown a strong reputation for being hard on players who abused drugs. Kuhn was quick to punish players who used drugs with heavy fines and suspensions. Cardinals catcher Darrell Porter told the Associated Press that during the winter of 1979-1980 he became paranoid, convinced that Kuhn knew about his drug abuse, was trying to sneak into his house, and planned to ban him from baseball for life. Porter found himself sitting up at night in the dark watching out the front window, waiting for Kuhn to approach, clutching billiard balls and a shotgun. Ironically, when Porter was named the most valuable player of the 1982 World Series, Kuhn was on hand to congratulate him.

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