BALTIMORE – Just after 6 p.m. Rob Manfred was ushered into the conference room where the major league owners had elected him the 10th commissioner of baseball.
Manfred was accompanied by heavy security as he met with the owners and shorter afterward owners began leaving the room.
Officially, the 55-year-old Manfred, who has worked in baseball since serving as its outside counsel during the 1994-95 strike, was elected unanimously. But, there was heated opposition to Manfred, who has been criticized in recent years for being too conciliatory to labor.
There were multiple ballots. Manfred, who was appointed as baseball’s chief operating officer last September by outgoing commissioner Bud Selig, was opposed by eight teams. They voted for Tom Werner, an owner of the Boston Red Sox. A third candidate, Tim Brosnan, baseball’s executive vice president for business, withdrew from consideration early Thursday afternoon.
“We had a very lengthy day, an interesting day where we had a significant number of votes, but in the end, the vote was unanimous, 30-0,” Selig said. “The process is complete.”
Manfred spent Thursday watching a game on television in a hotel suite at the Hyatt Regency while he was being voted on.
“I have very big shoes to fill,” Manfred said in a hastily arranged news conference with some owners in attendance. “I hope that I would perform as the 10th commissioner in a way that would add to his legacy.”
The 80-year-old Selig became commissioner in Sept. 1992, and will exit next January. He plans to teach at several universities and write a book.
Selig was clearly relieved to have his successor chosen.
“Even though there were differences of opinion, in the end we came together as we always do,” Selig said.
Werner, who spoke to the press briefly, excused himself after a few minutes so that he could prepare for his daughter’s upcoming wedding.
“In the end, I think Rob will make a great commissioner, and I’m going to support him. I think some of the ideas that we talked about to speed up the play of the game to capture a generation of young fans that I think we need,” Werner said.
Manfred said that he hadn’t given much thought to his priorities.
“I think the single biggest challenge is filling the shoes of the man who is to my right,” Manfred said, gesturing toward Selig, whom he called a “friend and mentor.”
Manfred won’t have to negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement for another two years, but he said his goal was consensus.
“[Selig] has established a great tradition of unity among the 30 clubs, and I’m going to work very hard to try to maintain that tradition as we move the game forward,” Manfred said.