Selig joins Busch celebration

Selig joins Busch celebration

ST. LOUIS -- On a weekend of celebration, Major League Baseball Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig wanted no part of the unpleasant topics that dominate so many of his days.

Selig, in town for the farewell ceremonies for the old Busch Stadium, addressed a group of reporters after speaking to the crowd and joining the Cardinals radio broadcast team on air. The commissioner reiterated his call for a tougher policy on illegal performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, but the sport's head man mostly wanted to talk about sunnier subjects.

"This is a day of celebration," Selig said when asked about former Cardinal Mark McGwire, who testified at Congressional steroid hearings in the spring, but has kept a low profile since.

"This is a weekend of celebration. In the rest of my life, I have to deal with all the problems. But today, this is just a celebration of a great ballpark and a great city and a franchise that has a terrific tradition. So that's the only comment I'm going to make on that subject."

Selig said he has not heard from the Major League Baseball Players Association since a further round of Congressional hearings in Washington this past week. Selig has proposed a penalty scale which goes from a 50-game suspension for a first offense to 100 for a second, with a lifetime ban for a third positive steroids test.

The current plan calls for a 10-day suspension for a first positive result, followed by 30 days, 60 days and one year. The MLBPA's most recent response to Selig calls for a scale beginning with a 20-game suspension.

"I think everybody knows my feelings," said Selig, who praised the testimony of Hall of Famers such as Hank Aaron and Ryne Sandberg at the most recent hearing. "The sport's never been more popular. We're going to close the season at a stunning [attendance] number in the high 34 millions, which is unheard of. It's popularity everywhere is remarkable. On television, everything else.

"But as I said, we need tougher penalties. We need independent testing. That's the only way that we can deal with the integrity issue. Is the program working? It is. But that is no longer the issue. The issue is the integrity, and I am very confident that we'll move forward and get my program accomplished."

Mostly, though, the Commissioner wanted to talk about the game on the field. He donned a Cardinals cap while watching part of Sunday's St. Louis-Cincinnati game from the stands, and greeted numerous fans in the stands as he made his way up to the press box.

"As you know, I'm lucky enough to go from franchise to franchise and stadium to stadium," Selig said. "And St. Louis has incredible tradition. I'm not saying that because I'm here. You go back even in my days as a kid, and Schoendienst and Musial, and the great Cardinals teams then. And then of course came Bob Gibson and [Mike] Shannon and the great Cardinals teams later on.

"They went from old Sportsman's Park to here, and now they're going in a new stadium. For St. Louis, a city this size, to draw over 3 1/2 million people is remarkable. It's just a great story. Walking in here, you understand. Just like when you walk around in Boston, they're a couple of really special places. This is a special place."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.