SEEMAN: Miller Park gets its “Bud”

It’s easy to comprehend why there are statues of Hank Aaron and Robin Yount outside Miller Park.

Aaron is one of only three players to hit more than 700 career home runs, and one of two to do it without a performance-enhancing cloud hovering around him.

Yount accumulated 3,142 hits, earned three Silver Slugger awards, two MVP awards and a Gold Glove during his Hall-of-Fame career.

Understanding the motive behind the new statue of former Brewers owner and current MLB commissioner Bud Selig, which the team unveiled Tuesday in a ceremony replete with symphony orchestra accompaniment, is a little bit tougher for some baseball fans to wrap their heads around.

Ceremonial over-indulgence aside, the brow-furrowing is warranted.

After all, wasn’t this the same guy who looked the other way while Barry Bonds’ head ballooned to a size big enough to contain the slugger’s ego?

And wasn’t Selig in charge in 1994 when a work stoppage canceled the World Series for the first time since 1904?

And what about the infamous 2002 All-Star Game when Selig bumbled his way through the decision to end the game in a 7-7 tie after both teams ran out of players in the 11th  inning?

Maybe the statue should be of Selig shrugging his shoulders, telling future generations, “I don’t know,” for all eternity.

I could continue picking through Selig’s tenure as commissioner, which isn’t as bad as I make it sound, especially considering how his ideas — the wild card and interleague play, for example — have launched the league into the popularity stratosphere, but I won’t.

That’s because Selig’s statue-worthiness has nothing to do with what he’s done from his New York City office.

No, Selig’s honor is strictly Milwaukeean.

To understand the commissioner’s spot in Milwaukee’s baseball canon, you need to understand the psyche of a city that lost a wildly successful major sports team.

For 13 years, the Braves called Milwaukee home. During that stretch, the team never had a losing record and won the World Series in 1957. Eight short years after that victory, the team was gone. Baseball fans that flocked to County Stadium to watch the Braves lost the only team they could call their own. You don’t have to be a Seattle Supersonics or Houston Oilers fan to know that hurts.

For five years, Milwaukee didn’t have a ball club until a group of businessmen headed by Selig bought the Seattle Pilots just before opening day of the 1970 season. And even though the team was Pittsburgh-Pirate dreadful, losing more than 90 games in six of its first eight seasons, Milwaukee was happy enough calling itself a major-league town again.

In 1978, the Brewers finally posted a winning season, garnering Selig Executive of the Year honors. Four years after that, Milwaukee was back at the game’s pinnacle, losing the 1982 World Series to St. Louis in seven games.

Since then, the Brewers have only had a handful of winning seasons, but having a losing baseball team is better than having no team at all. No offense to people from Toledo or Louisville, but big-league sports give Milwaukee an extra level of prominence that those other two cities just don’t have.

There will still be those who hope avian vandals do their worst to bronze Bud’s shoes, and that’s their right. But the fact still remains that, without Selig, there might not be a team or even a stadium in Milwaukee today. Who knows, without Selig, the Padres might’ve had the chance to put a Robin Yount statue outside Petco Park.