For the first time in nearly six years, baseball gets a commissioner today. And the choice won't leave fans surprised or speechless.

Owners love him, because he's one of their own.Others deride him as Bud Lite.

Instead of being baseball's acting head, he'll be the real thing.

No more independent leader for baseball. The ninth commissioner will be Milwaukee Brewers owner Bud Selig.

"A commissioner is not a czar sitting above the law," Selig said as his election approached. "Yes, a commissioner has a lot of power, but it must be confined to certain areas."

Selig, the owner of the Brewers since 1970, was part of the group that helped force Fay Vincent to resign on Sept. 7, 1992. He was angered that both Vincent and Peter Ueberroth deemed themselves impartial and immune to owners' wishes.

That won't happen with Selig, called baseball's champion vote-counter by several owners. Even though he'll have the title and a five-year term, he'll still rule by consensus.

Don't expect another Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Or even another Ueberroth.

"I don't think people realize how the office of the commissioner has changed since 1921," Selig said.

His term as acting commissioner, which began two days after Vincent's resignation, already has gone on 2,131 days, longer than the span of four of his eight predecessors: William Eckert, Ueberroth, A. Bartlett Giamatti and Vincent.

Selig presided over the start of interleague play, the introduction of three-division leagues and wild cards and vastly increased revenue sharing between the large- and small-market clubs.

And he also was in charge during the 230-day strike that led to a sharp dropoff in attendance and popularity. But with that behind, he hopes the next five years will be calmer than the last five.

Three issues figure to dominate his agenda during the remainder of the year: Marge Schott, the Minnesota Twins and Pete Rose.

Schott, the Cincinnati Reds owner, was forced to give up day-to-day control of the team in the middle of the 1996 season because of inflammatory remarks that angered women, blacks and Jews. The sanctions against her expire after this season, but baseball officials informally have discussed whether the team should continue to operate largely without her influence.

"We'll deal with that in due course," Selig said.

The Twins, angered that Minnesota's government won't fund a new ballpark, have threatened to move to North Carolina, but voters there voted down one stadium proposal and it's unclear if Charlotte will fund a stadium.

Rose figures to be the easiest issue for him. Baseball's career hits leader, banned for life in 1989 following a gambling investigation by Giamatti, has applied for reinstatement, which would make him eligible for the Hall of Fame. Selig shows no inclination to reverse the ban.

"I think Bart did the right thing," Selig said earlier this year. "There's no reason to change that."



The Bud Selig file

Name: Allan Huber (Bud) Selig.

Born: July 30, 1934, Milwaukee.

Education: B.A., University of Wisconsin.

Baseball history: Bought stock in Milwaukee Braves in 1963; headed group that purchased Seattle Pilots in bankruptcy court on April 1, 1970, and moved the team to Milwaukee, where it became the Brewers.

Biggest tasks: Headed commissioner search committees that recommended Peter Ueberroth, who took office on Oct. 1, 1984, and A. Bartlett Giamatti, who took office on April 1, 1989. Chairman of owners' Player Relations Committee during labor negotiations in 1985 and 1990.

Executive council: Appointed chairman on Sept. 9, 1992, two days after the resignation of Fay Vincent.

Family: Married (Sue). Two daughters from first marriage, Wendy Selig-Prieb, executive vice president of Brewers; and Sari Markenson, who works in Selig's auto-leasing company.

Interests: Contemporary art collecting, including Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein.

Athletic activities: Rides exercise bike 45 minutes per day.

Other business: Owns auto-leasing company and deli in Milwaukee. A director of the Green Bay Packers.