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Thomas Boswell

Steroids? Politics? Selig Discovers Perspective

By Thomas Boswell
Saturday, December 25, 2004; Page D01

On Election Day, baseball commissioner Bud Selig went to his doctor for his regular checkup. And, as usual, his physician Ian Gilson told him he was in "great shape," according to Selig. They chatted about Gilson's work for baseball in trying to establish new standards for steroid testing in the sport.

"I've got to keep you going great for another five years," joked Gilson. With that, the doctor sent the 70-year-old Selig, who has five years left on his contract, on his way.

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig had surgery to remove cancerous skin cells on his forehead. "We need reminders of what is important," Selig said. (Jeff Roberson -- AP)

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But then Gilson stopped him.

"As I'm outside the door of the office walking away, my doctor called and said, 'Come back here. What's that on your face?' " Selig said.

Every morning when Selig looked in the mirror, he saw a blotch on the skin above his right eye. But like countless others, he ignored it.

"I had never been sick in my life," Selig said. "I had only been in the hospital once -- ever. Serious illness was something that happened to other people."

Selig went to a dermatologist the next day. Within three days, test results revealed the biggest shock of his life. "It was 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 5," said Selig. "The doctor said, 'I hate to give you bad news on a Friday.' "

The blotch was cancerous. Worse, it was Clark Level IV melanoma, which can mean that the disease has already spread through the lymphatic system and may be incurable and fatal.

"When I heard 'level four melanoma,' I was stunned," Selig said this week in his first interview about his two-month ordeal.

"I looked it up [in medical texts]. My kids did, too. It's not good."

"I was just, 'Ohhhhhhh,' " said Selig, like the breath had been sucked out of him.

Every day he worried. "One day I took three of my granddaughters shopping," Selig said. "I was so distraught that I sat in my car and cried."

Meantime, baseball seemed to throw a new crisis at him every day. Three days before he was scheduled for surgery, the BALCO scandal broke wide open while he was in Washington to welcome the nation's capital back into baseball after 33 years. The next day, Barry Bonds's grand jury testimony about using the "clear" and the "cream" led the national news.

Meantime, doctors had given Selig his odds. There was perhaps a 90 percent chance that the cancer had been caught before it spread. But that was just an educated guess. And the other 10 percent chance would be bad news.

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