Hall of Fame Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn.


Bowie Kuhn

Bowie Kuhn was the fifth Commissioner of Major League Baseball from 1969-1984 and worked tirelessly with Dr. Robert Smith of the International Baseball Association, Dodger President Peter O’Malley, legendary USC Head Baseball Coach Rod Dedeaux, and others to earn baseball gold medal status in the Olympic Games. Peter attended the meeting and sat with his father Walter O’Malley in 1969 when Kuhn was introduced as Baseball Commissioner. Peter and Walter attended the July 22, 1969 All-Star Game reception at the White House in Washington, D.C. where Kuhn and President Richard M. Nixon welcomed them and other guests. Kuhn was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame posthumously in 2008, the same year that Walter O’Malley was inducted as an executive. Kuhn worked closely on baseball’s legal affairs for 19 years with prestigious law firm Wilkie Farr & Gallagher in New York, prior to his selection as Baseball Commissioner. Combining his baseball and legal knowledge with Kuhn’s business acumen in the study of Economics at Princeton University were major factors in his selection by the owners. During his leadership, Kuhn successfully negotiated a three-year agreement with the MLBPA in 1969, watched baseball’s attendance more than double, strongly supported the inclusion of former Negro Leagues players in the Hall of Fame, created League Championship Series to boost the postseason, and suggested the first night World Series games. He also oversaw great growth in television revenues. Despite two player strikes – in 1972 and 1981 – Kuhn made sure that the World Series were played those seasons. On October 15, 1972 at Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati, Kuhn and Peter participated in a World Series Game 2 pregame salute honoring Jackie Robinson. It was to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of Robinson’s becoming the first African American in Major League Baseball for the Dodgers in 1947. It was Robinson’s last public appearance as he passed nine days later.

Kuhn and Peter traveled to many countries, meeting with international baseball leaders to help develop the game and earn it a permanent place in the Olympic Games, dependent upon an IOC vote. When Peter hosted all international baseball leaders and nearly 100 representatives from more than 30 countries, September 10-12, 1979, Kuhn attended the critical Olympic baseball planning meetings. In 1981, when the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants trained at Dodgertown, Vero Beach, Florida, Kuhn and his wife Luisa visited. On March 10, the Dodgers played Yomiuri at Holman Stadium and Luisa threw the ceremonial first pitch.

L-R: Rod Dedeaux, legendary USC head baseball coach; Bowie Kuhn, former Baseball Commissioner; Eiichiro Yamamoto of Japan and the Asian Baseball representative; Peter O’Malley, Dodger President; Dr. Bob Smith, International Baseball Association (IBA) President. Peter O’Malley hosted IBA executive meetings, October 17-20, 1992 at The Stadium Club, Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles.

On October 28, 1981, Kuhn presented the World Championship trophy to Peter, Vice President, Player Personnel Al Campanis and Dodger Manager Tommy Lasorda at Yankee Stadium, New York after the Dodgers beat the Yankees in six games. During the eight-team exhibition Olympic Baseball tournament at Dodger Stadium from July 31-August 7, 1984, Peter invited Kuhn and many international dignitaries to watch games with him. From April 28-May 1, 1983, Kuhn and Peter traveled to Seoul, South Korea to meet with Korean Baseball Commissioner Gen. Jyong-Chul Suh and Yong-Shik Kim, Chairman of the Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee regarding obtaining gold medal status for baseball in 1988.   

When Kuhn’s commissionership ended on September 30, 1984, he again practiced law at Willkie Farr & Gallagher. On February 9-11, 1985, Kuhn and Peter were in Seoul, South Korea for International Baseball Association Executive Committee meetings. They met for lunch with South Korea Minister of Sports Lee Yong-Ho with the purpose of requesting Republic of Korea President Chun Doo Hwan’s support of baseball in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. If not as a gold medal sport, at least as one of two demonstration sports once again. Kuhn hand carried a February 2, 1985 letter from President Ronald Reagan to President Chun. Originally, Kuhn was to meet with President Chun, but a scheduling conflict prevented that. Kuhn wrote a February 21, 1985 letter to President Reagan to advise him of the results of the meeting, informing him that he handed the President’s letter to Minister of Sports Lee with the assurance it would arrive on President Chun’s desk. Kuhn asks Reagan to continue to support baseball in the 1988 Olympic Games in further discussions with President Chun. President Reagan did encourage baseball as one of two demonstration sports, despite competition from taekwondo and badminton and it was named a demonstration sport for 1988.

From June 5-7, 1985, Kuhn and Peter traveled to Beijing, China to help plan possible projects while they watched an exhibition baseball game between Sichuan Province and New York’s C.W. Post College. Kuhn participated in the September 12, 1986 dedication ceremonies of “Dodger Baseball Field” privately built by Peter at the Tianjin Institute of Physical and Cultural Education in the People’s Republic of China. Kuhn visited Dodgertown, Vero Beach, Florida on numerous occasions for meetings with Peter and other international baseball leaders and officials. He and Peter traveled to Beijing, China in June, 1994 to encourage the development of Little League Baseball in that country. They were joined by Rod Dedeaux, director of Baseball Emeritus at the University of Southern California, and Dr. Creighton Hale, longtime President of Little League Baseball. Kuhn passed at age 80 on March 15, 2007. Peter told the Orlando Sentinel at Kuhn’s funeral, “Whatever he did, Bowie tried to protect the integrity of the game. I respect him greatly for that.”