Bud Selig could see it coming. He did not know exactly which great player was going to be overlooked by the capricious impulses of baseball fans, but he was certain it was going to be somebody he loved.
The commissioner had brought this agony on himself by approving a commercial gimmick he suspected might backfire. A credit card company, a major sponsor, would arrange for fans to select the top twenty-five players of the twentieth century, using computerized punch cards. The winners would be announced during the World Series of 1999.
The drawback, and Selig knew it right away, was that this election could produce an injustice for some great players who had concluded their careers before the current generation of fans, before cable television began displaying endless loops of home runs by sluggers who were mysteriously growing burlier by the hour.