It's a safe bet that Paul Beeston won't be wearing socks when he's in Cooperstown, N.Y., this weekend to witness the induction of longtime Toronto Blue Jays colleague Pat Gillick.
Known for going sockless and smoking cigars, the Jays president and CEO isn't much for formality, but don't let that mislead you. With or without socks, the hardworking Welland, Ont., native might be the most respected man in baseball. And as deserving as Gillick is of his plaque in Cooperstown, Beeston is equally worthy of being honoured.
No Canadian has had a greater impact on Major League Baseball than Beeston. Without the gregarious executive, it's safe to say there would be no Rogers Centre and no World Series banners flying in Toronto.
And in his role as president and chief operating officer of MLB, Beeston played a crucial role in preventing a devastating work stoppage in 2002.
Born in 1945, Beeston attended the University of Western Ontario and became a chartered accountant in 1971. The offbeat, personable number cruncher was working for Coopers & Lybrand in London, Ont. when the Blue Jays hired him as their first employee on May 10, 1976.
Beeston quickly ascended through the Jays ranks, becoming vice-president of business operations in 1977 and executive VP of business in 1984. By the time the Jays were contenders in the mid-'80s, Beeston had blossomed into one of the organization's most valued voices. For his efforts, he was named the club's president & COO in 1989 and CEO in 1991.
The outgoing executive often wooed free agents, and it was under Beeston's reign that the Jays became the first team to draw four million fans in a season. Beeston also strongly advocated hiring Cito Gaston when the Jays were looking for a full-time manager after Jimy Williams was fired in 1989.
Together with Gillick, Beeston masterminded the perfect blueprint for an expansion franchise. By endorsing a patient approach that emphasized scouting and player development, Beeston helped transform the club from perennial bottom dwellers into perennial contenders.
During his initial 21-year-run with the Jays, the team would win five American League East division titles and two World Series championships.
During that span, Beeston, a man with no baseball background when he was hired, earned universal praise in baseball circles, garnering a reputation as a charismatic innovator. This reputation would convince acting commissioner Bud Selig to offer Beeston a job as the president and COO of MLB in 1997.
Beeston accepted the job and worked closely with the commissioner over the next five years. He played a prominent role in adding teams in Arizona and Tampa Bay and also forged an amicable relationship with MLB Players' Association executive director Donald Fehr to avoid a devastating work stoppage in 2002.
Following a short tenure out of baseball, Beeston was named the Jays' interim CEO in October 2008. The interim tag would be removed when he signed a three-year deal to become the club's president and CEO in October 2009. That same month, Beeston would hire Alex Anthopoulos as the club's general manager.
On top of his duties with the Jays, Beeston sits on the MLB competition committee that examines ways to improve the game.
As part of this committee, Beeston has participated in discussions about divisional realignment and adding more playoff spots - two topics critical to the Jays future.
Beeston also sits on the board of directors at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, but Craig Muder, director of communications at the Cooperstown shrine, said that this doesn't make the affable Canuck ineligible for induction. Beeston could be considered for the Expansion Era ballot (designed to shine the spotlight on those who made their greatest contributions after 1973) which will be voted on again in the fall of 2013.
In examining the executives already in the Hall of Fame, Beeston is most similar to former Pittsburgh Pirates president Barney Dreyfuss. The National League's first VP, Dreyfuss oversaw six pennant winners and two World champion squads during his 32-year reign as Pirates president.
Now in his 29th year in MLB and 24th with the Jays, Beeston has five division titles and two championships on his resume.
This success, coupled with the advances he made during his tenure with MLB, put his accomplishments on par with those of Dreyfuss.
In his induction speech on Sunday, Gillick will undoubtedly acknowledge Beeston, but the sockless, cigar-smoking Jays president should be similarly honoured in the near future.
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