Little League International Mourns the Passing of Former Major League Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn
Mr. Kuhn, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., passed away Thursday night. He was 80.
During his 15-year tenure as commissioner of Major League Baseball (1969-84), Mr. Kuhn oversaw the creation of free agency and divisional play, the introduction of the designated hitter into the American League, was an influential voice in the expansion of Major League Baseball from 20 to 26 teams, and backed the playing of World Series night games.
As an avid supporter of Little League through his position as a trustee on the Little League Foundation, and as an advocate for the growth of Little League abroad, Mr. Kuhn was a nurturing force for the sport of baseball.
“Mr. Kuhn’s influence on baseball is historic in many ways, and it was our honor to have him serve the Little League Foundation,” Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, said. “During his years of service to the foundation, he took great pride in the betterment of the Little League program.
Our deepest condolences go out to the Kuhn family.”
In 1983, while MLB Commissioner, Mr. Kuhn traveled to Williamsport, Pa., home of Little League Baseball and Softball, to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Little League Baseball World Series championship game.
In later years, his presence as a Little League Foundation trustee provided guidance and direction as the program expanded the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of Little League to more than 100 countries.
"I knew Bowie well and the most important thing to him was to protect the integrity of the game,” Peter O’Malley, Little League Foundation trustee and former President of the Foundation, said. “He believed that was his most important responsibility as commissioner of baseball and he fought for it vigorously. My thoughts are with his wife, Luisa and their family at this time."
Mr. O’Malley, former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, joined Commissioner Kuhn in several Little League endeavors, including Little League Baseball and Softball’s “World of Opportunity” capital campaign.
Mr. Kuhn had a prominent role in the World of Opportunity capital campaign which raised more than $20 million for the construction of a second Little League Baseball World Series stadium (Little League Volunteer Stadium opened in 2001), expansion of the Little League Baseball World Series tournament from eight to 16 teams, and the establishment of regional offices in Waco, Texas, and Kutno, Poland.
“Bowie Kuhn was a champion for Little Leaguers around the world,” Howard Paster, president of the Little League Foundation and chairman of the World of Opportunity capital campaign, said. “His efforts in support of the capital campaign for Little League Baseball, and broad vision of the program’s potential impact on children, made him a role model and respected leader. He will be missed.”
The Little League Foundation, chartered in 1955, guides the long-range ambitions of the program and provides financial integrity for the Little League movement. Much of the support for Little League operations is provided though the workings of the foundation.
A native of Takoma Park, Md., Mr. Kuhn was a graduate of Princeton University, where he received a degree in economics. He later earned a law degree from the University of Virginia, and served on the editorial board of law review.
As a member of the prestigious law firm of Wilkie, Farr and Gallagher in New York, he spent the next 19 years working closely in Major League Baseball’s legal affairs. Perhaps his biggest case during that time was serving as counsel to the National League in a lawsuit brought against them by the City of Milwaukee when the Braves were moved to Atlanta. He also acted as a liaison for negotiations between the Major League Players Association and the club owners.
Mr. Kuhn was elected commissioner by a unanimous vote on Feb. 4, 1969.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn signs autographs for some Little Leaguers during his visit to Little League International in 1983. After Commissioner Kuhn left office he continued his relationship with Little League, becoming a trustee of the Little League Foundation in 1996.