THE BLOG
10/21/2014 03:56 pm ET Updated Dec 21, 2014

The Commissioner of Summer: An Appreciation of Allan H. "Bud" Selig

Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda once said, "There are three types of baseball players: Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happens." Bud Selig never played in the Major Leagues, but as the Commissioner of Baseball, there is no doubt that he belongs in the first category. He has always possessed an uncanny ability to make it happen.

Whether you're one of the millions of fans who follow baseball religiously, or have just been watching the dramatic Postseason this October, it is clear that Major League Baseball is thriving. The Kansas City Royals are World Series-bound for the first time in 29 years. Fellow playoff clubs from small markets reflect Selig's vision of all teams having the opportunity to compete for the Fall Classic.

Competition from other sports and entertainment options has never been more intense, and yet baseball continues to draw fans in staggering numbers. The game's remarkable success stems largely from the innovations of Selig's tenure. There are many accomplishments during his 22 years in the post, from implementing revenue sharing and ushering in an era of labor peace to introducing the Wild Card playoff berths, the expanded Postseason, and Interleague play. Twenty stunning ballparks, all featuring modern amenities while paying homage to history, have opened during Mr. Selig's tenure. Ahead of the curve, Baseball adapted to the 21st Century by allowing fans to watch games from the palms of their hands as easily as from the comfort of their living rooms. Baseball continues to make more live programming available than any other sport.

For all of the game's innovations, baseball remains vibrantly connected to its storied past. In 1997, Commissioner Selig retired Jackie Robinson's number 42 in perpetuity to honor a pioneer of American life, and in 2004, he officially began Jackie Robinson Day every April 15th to celebrate his enduring legacy. By remembering the courage of men like Lou Gehrig, Roberto Clemente, and Hank Aaron in various ways, Selig has ensured that our kids today can learn how one can make an impact beyond the field of play.

America's love affair with movies is roughly as old as its love affair with baseball. Both saw their popularity heighten in the Roaring Twenties to become two of our favorite pastimes. I've watched studio heads wrestle with many of the same challenges that Mr. Selig has had to endure. How do you keep innovating while staying true to your core fans? New technology, increased competition, fluctuations in the economy, labor disputes, and the biggest challenge of all -- how to maintain the allure of an institution that dates back more than a century. When considering Bud Selig's career, one unheralded element should not get lost when that story is told: his generosity.

For all of his business savvy, Mr. Selig's love of the game has given him a fundamental understanding of baseball's role as a social institution. As a co-founder of Stand Up To Cancer, it is so heartening to walk into a sold-out stadium of 50,000 people holding SU2C placards in memory of a mother, a father, or a child who has been lost or is fighting cancer. That will happen yet again on Friday, at Game 3 of the World Series. During Selig's tenure, players have used pink bats on Mother's Day to highlight the battle against breast cancer. Home runs hit on Father's Day have raised funds to benefit prostate cancer research. Mr. Selig has led Major League Baseball to contribute tens of millions of dollars to crucial, groundbreaking cancer research that is benefiting patients now. He has introduced numerous league owners and sponsors to the cause. In turn, MLB's 30 clubs have used their massive platform to increase awareness of the great need for bold and innovative cancer research.

Fifty percent of all U.S. households know of Stand Up To Cancer, a remarkable number when you consider it's only been in existence for six years. Much of that awareness is a direct product of donated flashing billboards and PSAs that play during MLB's annual jewel events, such as the World Series and the All-Star Game. Valuable airtime that could go to many other sponsors has been reserved for Stand Up To Cancer. As a charitable organization, you'd be hard pressed to find a more dedicated partner than Major League Baseball and its most passionate ambassador, Bud Selig. We're eternally grateful for his support, that of the owners of MLB's 30 teams and everyone associated with the game. And we are not alone. Mr. Selig has instilled in MLB a spirit of philanthropy that has also touched many lives through Welcome Back Veterans, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and many other worthy organizations.

In terms of a business legacy, Mr. Selig's approach to running Major League Baseball is proof that you can modernize an institution while celebrating its bond with tradition. But the lesson runs even deeper. Millions of fans visit ballparks or watch from a TV, a computer, or a handheld device because they love the game. As they enjoy the feats of players like Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen on the diamond, fans now also learn how they can Stand Up To Cancer, support our veterans, and help our next generation. In my view, his unwavering commitment to others is not only Bud Selig's crowning achievement as the Commissioner of Baseball, but has also helped his sport truly rise up to its time-honored billing as our national pastime. He made it happen.