Dr. Gene A. Budig, the last president of the American League and later a part-owner of the Charleston RiverDogs (Low A; Sally League) since January 2007, has passed away. He was 81.
Budig is survived by his wife Gretchen, his sister, brother, his three children and his five grandchildren.
“This is a truly sad day for the RiverDogs family. Gene was not only a partner, but a great friend. Gene and Gretchen have been a constant presence at the ballpark for the last 15 years, and Gene’s humor, sage advice, and pure love of baseball will be sorely missed. Our hearts go out to Gretchen and the Budig family,” said Marv Goldklang, chairman and principal owner of the RiverDogs.
Budig’s career began in higher education and sports administration. Born in McCook, Nebraska, Gene’s career in academia was highlighted by his time as President of Illinois State University (1973-77), President of West Virginia University (1977-81), and Chancellor of the University of Kansas (1980-94).
He was named president of the American League in 1994 and served in the position for six seasons before league offices and league presidents were eliminated in 1999.
Gene retired in 1992 from the Air National Guard at the rank of Major General. A lecture hall at the University of Kansas, Budig Hall, is named in his honor. In recent years, he has also chaired the advisory committee for the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.
“Dr. Budig was a cherished friend of our family and someone my father respected immensely for his character, intellect and profound career accomplishments in higher education,” said Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner. “Over the last decade, I had the opportunity to work with him in establishing and growing the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, and quickly discovered why my father held him in such high regard. We personally share deeply in his loss and will always be grateful for his efforts in creating a permanent landmark for the Yankees, New York City and student-athletes from around the country.”
“I feel privileged to have worked with Dr. Budig during my time at Major League Baseball and throughout the development and growth of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl,” said Yankees President Randy Levine. “His stature and relationships in the collegiate world provided the foundation for everything we have been able to accomplish in such a short time. He recognized that the New Era Pinstripe Bowl needed to be more than just a game, but rather an immersive and educational New York City experience for the student-athletes, coaches, staff and alumni taking part. His passing is truly a great loss to higher education, the national pastime and everyone who knew him.”
Photo courtesy Charleston RiverDogs.