Former MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn — once called “the village idiot “by A’s owner Charlie Finley, whom he prevented from selling Vida Blue to the Yankees and Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers to the Red Sox in 1976 — has passed away at the age of 80. From the AP :
Kuhn died at St. Luke’s Hospital following a short illness, his spokesman Bob Wirz said.
When Kuhn took over as commissioner from William Eckert on Feb. 4, 1969, baseball just had completed its final season as a tradition-bound 20-team sport with no playoffs, a reserve clause and an average salary of about $19,000.
During his tenure, the sport battled the rise of the NFL and a combative players’ union that attacked him with lawsuits, grievances and work stoppages.
By the time Peter Ueberroth succeeded Kuhn on Oct. 1, 1984, the major leagues had 26 teams in four divisions, a designated hitter in the American League, the first night World Series games, color-splashed uniforms, free agency and an average salary of nearly $330,000.
“I want it to be remembered that I was commissioner during a time of tremendous growth in the popularity of the game,” he said, “and that it was a time in which no one could question the integrity of the game.”
People did question several of his major decisions. He didn’t attend the game in 1974 when Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run to break Babe Ruth’s career record. And he banned Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle from association with their teams because of their liaisons with gambling casinos — Mays in 1979 and Mantle in 1983.