Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball

With all the talk these days about Rob Manfred taking over for Bud Selig as the new commissioner of Major League Baseball, I decided to look back at an old blog entry and reminisce about my visit to the commissioner’s office in 2009. Well, guess what? The entry was gone. Dead. Deleted from existence. And I was horrified. It went missing when MLBlogs switched over to WordPress several years ago. A bunch of my other entries suffered a similar fate, but thankfully I’ve been able to revive some of them. Anyway, here you go — the stories and photos from one of my favorite baseball experiences ever. Enjoy!

A few weeks ago, I called the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball and asked to speak to someone who could give me info on commemorative baseballs. (For those who don’t know, I’m working on a new book about baseballs.) I really didn’t 1_mlb_logoexpect to get anywhere. I’d called MLB’s headquarters several times in the past and always got transferred to various people’s voice-mails — and then never heard back. This time, however, things were different. My book might’ve had something to do with it, or maybe it was just because there’s a new crop of really cool people at MLB, but regardless . . . three days ago I got to go TO the actual Office of the Commissioner to ask my questions in person. No, I didn’t meet with Bud Selig himself. He was in Milwaukee, and the office is located in New York City. Instead I had a 90-minute meeting with Howard Smith, the Senior Vice President of Licensing for Major League Baseball. One of my first questions for him was, “Who actually decides if there will be a commemorative ball for a particular game or event?”

His response: “I do.”

As you might imagine, I was pretty excited to be talking to THE man, and as it turned out, he enjoyed talking to me; during the 11 years that he’s worked for MLB, he hasn’t exactly met a whole lot of people who are as enthusiastic about commemorative balls as me.

I asked Mr. Smith dozens of questions, many of which had been left as comments on this entry. (Thank you all for the ideas and suggestions.) We also looked at 27 different balls that I’d brought from my own personal collection. We talked about “juiced ball” theories as well as the Rawlings factory in Costa Rica. We discussed the cost of manufacturing commemorative balls in addition to the process of designing the logos in the first place. He was 2_2007_home_run_derby_gold_ballincredibly friendly and generous, not just with his time, but also with some of the stuff he had sitting around his office. You know those “gold balls” that are used in the Home Run Derby? He gave me one of those. And have3_2001_world_series_ball_with_american_flag you ever seen the 2001 World Series ball that features an American flag where the MLB logo normally appears? He gave me one of those too. He said it was made immediately after the 9/11 attacks and that the flag overlapped the logo to show that our country was bigger than the game of baseball. This ball never saw game action. (The standard 2001 World Series ball looked like this.) Instead it was designed to be the ball that President Bush threw for the ceremonial first pitch.

I happened to be wearing my black umpires cap, and Mr. Smith asked me about it. I explained that since I don’t have a favorite team and since I’m absolutely crazy about Major League Baseball in general, I love wearing stuff that *just* has the MLB logo.

“Clothing like that is really hard to find,” I complained. “Everything has a team logo.”

“What’s your hat size?” he asked.

“Seven and a quarter,” I told him.

He picked up the phone and called his secretary. Five minutes later, there was a knock on the door, and I was handed this:

4_mlb_logo_cap_with_stars_and_stripes

This is the cap that umpires wore on July 4th and September 11th.

Two of Mr. Smith’s assistants — guys from the Business Public Relations department — sat in on the meeting. They too were friendly and fun, and we all had a bunch of laughs. When I asked about Bud Selig’s involvement with commemorative balls, Mr. Smith said, “He doesn’t deal with such minutiae.”

“Minutiae?!” I shouted. “I take offense to that!” and we all cracked up. It was that kind of meeting. No pressure. No attitude. I was thrilled to be getting such amazing info for my book, and I was equally thrilled just to BE there; the Office of the Commissioner is not open to the public. Even if you’re the biggest baseball fan in the world, you can’t just waltz in there unannounced. You’d never be let past security in the lobby in the first place. The office occupies four floors of a fancy (and VERY secure) office building at 245 Park Avenue, which is just a few blocks from Grand Central Station. So yeah, just by breathing MLB’s air, I felt special (that is honestly not sarcasm), but as it turned out I got to do a lot more than simply breathe. After the meeting (which had only been scheduled to last an hour), I was given a lengthy tour *and* I was given permission to take photos and share them on my blog.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh baby!
You ready to see them?
Here goes . . .

This is the main/reception area on the 31st floor:

5_main_reception_area

(Umm, wow.)

Did you notice the World Series trophy in the case on the left? Did you notice the baseball diamond on the floor?

Here’s a closer look at one section of the wooden walls. As you can see . . .

6_wooden_wall_with_world_series_winners

. . . there’s a list of every World Series winner in baseball history. The section of the wall on the far end features a year-by-year list of every Hall of Fame inductee.

Just beyond the glass doors at one end of the reception area, there’s a lounge with a Negro Leagues theme. One wall has a gigantic photo of the championship team from 1935:

7_negro_leagues_champions_1935

The opposite wall showcases several teams’ uniforms from that era:

8_negro_leagues_uniforms

As I was led through various corridors, I kept feeling more and more giddy at the sight of baseball stuff in random places . . . like the xerox room:

9_commissioners_office_xerox_room

I headed down some stairs and passed a World Baseball Classic display:

10_world_baseball_classic_display

This is what it looks like on the 30th floor:

11_30th_floor_at_the_office_of_the_commissioner_of_major_league_baseball

Every team’s current home uniform is on display. Here’s a closer look at the half-dozen from the NL Central:

12_national_league_central_uniforms

Speaking of divisions, did you notice the baseballs on the wall just past the receptionists’ desk two photos above? Here’s a closer look:

13_baseballs_on_display_according_to_the_standings

There’s one column of balls for each of MLB’s six divisions; each division is arranged according to the standings, with the first-place teams on top.

There are lots of different lounges and meeting rooms on the 30th floor. Here’s one of them, and as you can see, there’s a display of game-used bases:

14_lounge_with_game_used_bases

Here’s a closeup of a base from the 2008 World Series:

15_base_from_the_2008_world_series

Here’s the room where press conferences are held:

16_press_conference_room

I was taken up to the 34th floor after that. There was baseball stuff EVERYwhere, even in the area right outside the elevators:

17_34th_floor_at_the_office_of_the_commissioner_of_major_league_baseball

That’s a display/map of the Minor Leagues.

I took the next photo with my back to the map. It shows more of the elevator area, along with the entrance to the 34th-floor offices:

18_looking_toward_the_34th_floor_reception_area

This is what the reception area looks like up there:

19_34th_floor_reception_area

Those are real/vintage magazines on display. The small white one on the left is a copy of “Baseball Magazine” with a very young (and slim) Babe Ruth on the cover.

The back wall of the reception area features silhouettes of baseball’s all-time greats:

20_baseball_player_silhouettes

The one on the right is Stan Musial. How many of the others can you identify? (If you look closely, you might be able to read the name of the player next to Musial.)

There’s a corridor on the 34th floor with one of those cool displays that appears to be different depending on which way you’re looking at it. This is what it looks like from the right . . .

21_cool_3d_display

. . . and this is what it looks like from the left:

22_cool_3d_display

There were certain things that I wasn’t allowed to photograph. The lunchroom, for example, was full of employees, so I had to put my camera away when I stepped inside. Therefore, you’ll have to settle for a description of the coolest part: baseball card table tops. What I mean is . . . each table where people were sitting and eating had the standard, food-resistant, plastic coating, but underneath it, there was a collage with hundreds of baseball cards, both new and old.

(Deep breath . . . )

Here’s another corridor:

23_hallway_with_outfield_wall_replicas

Those are replicas of various outfield walls. Do you see the dark green section at the end? Here’s a closer look:

24_wrigley_field_wall_replica

Outstanding!

By the time my tour came to an end, I’d been at The Office for two and a half hours. There’s a lot more that I’d like to say, but I was asked not to mention certain things. There’s a lot more that I’m allowed to mention, but I’m too tired and busy to blog about it. And of course there’s a lot of stuff that I’m going to save for the book.

The book isn’t scheduled to be published until March 2011, but I’m already compiling a list of people who want to be reminded (via email) when it comes out. If you’d like to be on that list, leave a comment or send me an email.

UPDATE!!! It’s now 2015, and the book is done and available, so don’t email me until you’ve read it, and you want to tell me how amazing it is.

41 comments

  1. jere80

    Look closely at the Green Monster in that penultimate pic, and you’ll see it has the distance markers at 310 feet with 96 meters in yellow below it. That’s interesting because for decades the left field line distance had been marked at 315/96, until in May 1995 when they finally changed the feet to a more accurate 310–BUT, they left the meter mark at 96. Two years later, in 1997, they matched the meters to the feet: 310/94.5. Eventually the yellow meter markers went the way of fake curses, leaving us with just a 310 now. So the point is, the Fenway wall at MLB headquarters is specifically from the 1995-1997 era. Which probably means that’s the point when they put those walls up. (Also, bad job by them putting the distance markers to the left (foul side) of the yellow foul line. They should be on the right side of the line.)

  2. Zack Hample

    JERE80-
    You are such a dweeb. I love it so much! This is truly brilliant stuff.

    DEMETRIUS-
    Yeah, I still have it. I only wear it on July 4th (when I never attend games) and other patriotic holidays.

  3. jere80

    Silhouettes: Next to Musial is Roger Maris. The others have mostly baffled me, but if I had to guess I’d say Jimmie Foxx is next to Maris, and maybe Clemente second from the back. That’s all I got. For now.

  4. Henry brewer

    If you let Arod hits home runs or anything he does stand i hope everybody the goes or watches the games stop he is nothing but a druggie and is no good for baseball anybody that does drugs nothing they do should be counted

  5. Bob Brown

    1. Forgive Pete Rose
    2. Think about creating illegal defense (similar to NBA). ALL FIELDERS MUST BE WITHIN 10′ OF THEIR STARTING FIELD POSITION UNTIL THE BALL LEAVE THE PITCHERS HAND. These shifts are destroying offenses!

  6. Zack Hample

    1) I’m torn. His stats (and overall attitude/hustle as a player) are obviously Hall-of-Fame worthy, but if the sport succumbs to gamblers, it’s gonna be BAD news. Letting Rose off the hook might make others think they can get away with it.
    2) I totally disagree. If batters don’t like shifts, then they should learn to hit better. Drop down a bunt every once in a while. Back off the plate two inches and try hitting a pitch to the opposite field. I think shifts are extremely entertaining because they shake things up. If offense suffers, so be it.

  7. Darrel Dorsey

    So it’s seemingly obvious that the umpire reveiw officials in New York are prejudice to make calls for any NY or other team in the area all reviews will be made in those teams favour. Just very offended by the review calls I have seen

  8. glenda cook

    i hope this gets to the commissioners him self ,he should be ashamed for not letting Pete rose be in hall of fame look at alex rodregize who does drugs and steroids you let him still in game and can get in hall of fame pete rose did nothing has bad has those who idid seroids and you don’t stop them in hall of fame Please Please let pete rose in hall of fame he deserves it so many people fell this way

  9. Zack Hample

    It definitely won’t get to the commissioner. This is just my personal blog; other than visiting the office six years ago, I have no connection.

  10. jerry salerno

    i been a baseball fan for 70 yrs or more,an in the last 10 yrs, the unform code has changs for the worst,faciael hair ,some players have dread locks, long hair,earrings,an its a bad example set for the yong kids coming up,,sure hope the man in charge puts a stop to it.

  11. Alan Ashenfarb

    I’ve noticed over the past two or three years that the batters in mlb are wearing gloves and putting tape on their bats that are much different than the colors of their uniforms. The only exception, are the Yankees. The only colored batting gloves or any tape on bats should conform to the colors of the mlb team.

  12. Paul Scholar

    I plead to you, and all of major league baseball.

    Please get rid of the DH. It is Baseball light. I could manage in the American league.

  13. Judy De Moulin

    O.k., First and foremost I am a baseball fan, irrespective of my favorite team.

    I am appalled at the DIRTY SLIDE THAT occurred last night during the Mets vs. Dodger game. Utley needs to be both removed for the rest of ALL THE PLAYOFF games and fined for his actions that occurred last night in taking out the Mets second baseman, who is now out for the season with a broken leg. Further, the Dodgers MUST BE FINED SEVERLY for encouraging such an act.

    Also, what’s up with instant replay guys. Not only did Utley not touch the bag, but he didn’t even have the respect to check on the injured player before he trotted off the field, and then he’s rewarded by being safe, HARDLY.

    MLB needs to come down hard very quickly as Utley’s actions were despicable .

  14. Francis Bartolomeo

    Good afternoon my comment is on the slide the dodger player did to the new york mets second basemen the other evening that was a very dirty play and my opion is he should be suspened for the rest of the year a two game suspension is nothing compared to whart he did to the other players leg everyone knows it was wrong watch the slide again you will see nasty very.

  15. Zack Hample

    Dear everyone: stop complaining about everything that’s pissing you off about baseball. This is my personal blog, I don’t work for MLB, and I don’t give a damn.

  16. bloggingboutbaseball

    LOL at all the complaints on your blog post. I think these folks must have Googled “office of the commissioner of baseball” and this entry popped up.
    I’m glad you recovered it – it was nice to go back and read it again.
    ~Matt

  17. Frank Latin

    Can someone in the Commissioners office explain to me if/why Fernando Rodney of the Marlins is going to be fined for not wearing his cap properly? I am a huge fan of the game and believe that all players should respect the game by wearing the uniform correctly. I’m watching the Phillies/Marlins game and he’s pitching with his cap almost completely sideways on his head. TOTAL DISRESPECT OF THE GAME! It’s bad enough that the Marlins organization doesn’t make him wear it properly but if MLB doesn’t step in and fix the problem, eventually more players will disrespect the game! Rodney is a joke! What is the league doing to correct the problem with the players doing things like this? Thank you!

  18. Zack Hample

    Dear Frank, I’m going to personally recommend to Commissioner Manfred that Fernando Rodney wear a “rally cap” from now on whenever he’s pitching. Have a nice day.

  19. Bill Trepkowski

    Here’s one I have wondered about for a while. When a player is traded from one league to another, his stats are reset to zero. I remember one year, when the Rangers traded Rick Honeycutt to the Dodgers for Dave Stewart, Honeycutt was leading the AL in ERA at the time of the trade. He had enough innings logged in over in the AL to qualify for the AL ERA crown at seasons’ end. His stats in the NL with the Dodgers had no impact on his AL numbers. That made sense, because there was no interleague play then. His AL stats were compiled strictly against AL competition, and his NL stats were against NL-only teams. When Mark McGwire was traded from the Athletics to the Cardinals, his stats did not carry over, so despite all the home runs he hit that year, he was nowhere near the top of either league. Why not? Since interleague play came along, why are players’ stats still reset to zero when they change leagues? Some of their statistics compiled in their original league WERE collected against the other league–the league the player is now joining. Do those stats suddenly not count? The NFL, NBA, and NHL have interconference play, and they don’t reset stats when a player switches conferences. So, my question is, as long as there is year-round interleague play, why does Major League Baseball continue resetting the stats when a player switches from the AL or the NL, or from the NL to the AL?

  20. Bill Trepkowski

    And in regard to Frank Latin’s comment regarding Fernando Rodney, when he was with the Tigers, Jim Leyland reportedly had to tell him constantly to wear his cap right. “This is the big leagues.” I remember the announcers discussing it during a broadcast of a game.

  21. Leroy McCloud

    Baseball has bigger things to worry about than Fernando Rodney’s hat..like umps getting the strike zone right. I’ve got pictures of some mighty ridiculous calls. When are you going to electronic ball/strike calling? At least it will be consistent.

  22. Zack Hample

    Dear Bill, everyone knows that stats are completely worthless; Mike Trout is actually the worst player in the major leagues when you don’t look at the numbers. And to Leroy . . . human umpires are just a fad. Starting next season, balls and strikes are going to be determined by dogs — one bark for a ball and two barks for a strike. We will have to work out various kinks, though, as dogs work the bases too, like how to call an infield fly or deal with instant replays. We’re thinking that if a manager argues a call and a dog urinates on his leg, that will constitute an ejection. On a final note, before you post comments on future blog entries, try reading them first. Have a nice day.

  23. Barry L Marquardt

    Now that the Cleveland Indians are in the World Series I think it is only good and proper, not to mention great PR to pull Harry Doyle out of retirement to do a few innings and throw-out the first ball. Maybe the Wild Thing will make an appearance.

  24. Francisco cabrera

    Very nice Job ,,baseball Life ,,,,incluso Need help,,,my son is happenig same líke Miguel sano ,,,,,in dominican Repúblic ,,,he Was july 2 , With a millionary offer,,but some think happend,, now he is 17 years without signing. ¡¡¡He is upset !!!

  25. william gomez

    You should leave baseball alone it has been the greatest game in the world don’t mess with the game don’t try to shorten the game now you got instant replay that’s what people wanted so you can get the car correct it well that’s what they want you can’t shorten the games cuz now this takes longer so you can’t have your cake and eat it too raising the strike zone that would be okay but it’s far as putting a man on second base and it’s a tied game you destroying the game of baseball baseball’s been what baseball for over a 100 years. Of time so why mess with it if somebody’s not going to go to the game because the game takes an extra 10 minutes then they don’t need to go to the ball game nobody’s going to not go to the game because the game takes a extra 5 or 10 minutes so why mess with the game of baseball is the greatest game in the world leave it alone you have extra innings you play it like it’s always been played you want to change the strike zone that’s fine but don’t mess with the rest of baseball. Thank you

  26. Bill

    Gomez, you keep repeating yourself, you don’t seem to know when to use and not use punctuation, and your sentence structure is horrible. Please learn to form a coherent sentence if you want people to read your crap.

  27. Zack Hample

    Salary arbitration doesn’t actually exist. It’s just a bunch of made-up B.S. that agents and GMs and writers and radio hosts like to talk about to sound smart. Sheesh!

  28. Derrick Simington

    Dear Mr.Commissoner ,I think the National league should get with the program.I love and hate the Dh in the American.It’s good because it prolongs many great hitters’s careers.But it’s bad because pitcher’s don’t hit.But let’s face it some picher’s can’t hit.My proposal is to have a pitcher’s option for the National league.It goes like this, in 4 at bats or more the pitcher must bat at lease 2 times during the game.The remaining times the manager can use a pinch hitter of his choice. That way if there is a situation where the game calls for a bunt you don’t waste a good hitter.Also you can keep your pitcher in the game longer.It would keep the game interesting.Please reply Derrick Simington 626 393 6444.

  29. Randall N. Wright

    Dear Mr. Manfred,
    I am a long time baseball fan. I played baseball through the Junior College level. I watch and read about baseball a good bit. I’ve been to spring training in Florida.I like the idea of doing all that you can to speed up the games. I like the idea of using the clock during inning changes as well as between pitches.. I think trips to the mound by catchers should be limited. Also, I think that once batters enter the batter’s box, they should remain there until they either get a hit, strike out, go to first base, etc. Continuously stepping out to adjust batting gloves is not necessary and is a waste of time. Some things can’t be rushed and that’s baseball but I think it would be enjoyed by more fans if the amount of time to complete the game was reduced. Thank you and keep up the good work.
    Randy wright .

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