BALTIMORE -- Rob Manfred was elected baseball's 10th commissioner Thursday, winning a three-man competition to succeed Bud Selig and given a mandate by the tradition-bound sport to recapture young fans and speed play in an era that has seen competition increase and attention spans shrink.
The 55-year-old Manfred, who has worked for Major League Baseball in roles with ever-increasing authority since 1998, will take over from Selig, 80, on Jan. 25. It's a generational change much like the NBA undertook when Adam Silver, then 51, replaced 71-year-old David Stern as commissioner in February. And like Silver, Manfred was his boss' pick.
Manfred beat out Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner in the first contested vote for a new commissioner in 46 years. The third candidate, MLB executive vice president of business Tim Brosnan, dropped out just before the start of balloting.
"I am tremendously honored by the confidence that the owners showed in me today," Manfred said. "I have very big shoes to fill."
Selig has led baseball since September 1992, first as chairman of the sport's executive council following Fay Vincent's forced resignation, then as commissioner since July 1998. After announcing his intention to retire many times only to change his mind, he said last September that he really, truly planned to leave in January 2015.
One baseball executive who attended the meeting, speaking on condition of anonymity to the Associated Press because details of the 4 1/2-hour session were not to be divulged, said Manfred was elected on approximately the sixth ballot. The initial vote was 20-10 for Manfred, three short of the required three-quarters majority.
His total increased to 21 on the second ballot and 22 on the third. While teams put written ballots into envelopes, keeping their choices secret, from team official speeches it was evident that the Tampa Bay Rays' Stuart Sternberg and Milwaukee Brewers' Mark Attanasio likely switched their votes, the source said.
Manfred's total dropped to 20, then increased to 22 before a dinner break. He got the needed 23rd vote on the next ballot, apparently from the Washington Nationals. Owners then made the final vote unanimous. The source said that it appeared the Arizona Diamondbacks, Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics and Toronto Blue Jays had been the final holdouts.
"What I said to the owners when I came down after the vote is that I didn't really want to even think about who was on what side of what issue at points in the process," Manfred said, "and that my commitment to the owners was that I would work extremely hard day in and day out to convince all 30 of them that they had made a great decision today."
White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and Toronto president Paul Beeston spoke out strongly against Manfred, the source told the AP. Angels owner Arte Moreno joined Reinsdorf in leading Werner's support. Other teams have said Reinsdorf wanted a commissioner who would take a harsher stance in labor negotiations.
"While Rob may not have been my initial choice for commissioner, the conclusion of a very good process was to name Rob as the person best positioned to help baseball endure and grow even stronger for the next generation of fans," Reinsdorf said in a statement. "Today's decision was reached by 30 owners voting separately but speaking, in the end, with one voice."
Werner, who made his career as a television executive, was preferred by those who wanted an owner to follow Selig, who was the longtime head of the Brewers when he took over MLB.
"I think the last two days have been productive because we've been able to share a number of ideas about the game and how to improve it and modernize it," Werner said. "I think that Rob agrees with many of the ideas that I espoused, and I am very confident that we are going to see some things, such as improved pace of play."
Brosnan quit the race when it became apparent he likely had one vote: Cincinnati.
"I cared too much about the game and really wanted the process to be as efficient as it could be," he said.
Manfred has been chief operating officer since September 2013, a role in which he reports directly to Selig and oversees functions such as labor relations, baseball operations, finance, administration and club governance.
Manfred had spent the previous 15 years as MLB's executive vice president of labor relations and human resources, and received an expanded role of executive vice president of economics and league affairs in 2012. He was the point man in negotiating the past three labor agreements, with all three negotiated without a work stoppage for the first time since the rise of the MLB Players Association in the 1970s. He also helped lead negotiations for the first joint drug agreement that was instituted in 2002 and has been strengthened repeatedly.
Manfred started with baseball in 1987 as a lawyer with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius who assisted in collective bargaining.
Manfred has been to Selig what Silver was to Stern -- a longtime trusted aide who negotiated labor deals, handled crises such as the Los Angeles Dodgers' bankruptcy saga and was intimately involved in major issues ranging from drug testing to revenue sharing. Manfred has taken criticism in recent months, however, for some of the methods baseball employed in its controversial Biogenesis investigation.
"There is no doubt in my mind he has the training, the temperament, the experience to be a very successful commissioner," Selig said, "and I have justifiably very high expectations."
Manfred -- whose term was not specified but is expected to receive a three-year contract, according to multiple reports -- grew up in Rome, New York, about an hour's drive from the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. He must address issues that include decreased interest in baseball among younger people and an average game time that has stretched to 3:03, up 30 minutes from 1981. And he will be leading an opinionated group of multimillionaires and billionaires.
"I think some of Rob's greatest attributes are his ability to reach consensus," said St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr., who chaired the committee that picked the three candidates.
Baseball has had labor peace since a 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-95 that canceled the World Series. Talks to replace the collective bargaining agreement with players that expires after the 2016 season will be conducted with a new union leadership headed by former All-Star first baseman Tony Clark.
"I have known Rob for more than 15 years, and I'm confident that his vast experience in all aspects of the sport will serve his commissionership well," Clark said in a statement.
While average attendance of about 30,500 is not far below the record of 32,785 set in 2007 before the Great Recession, national television ratings for the World Series have dropped by more than 50 percent under Selig -- partly because of fractured viewing caused by the vast increase in available networks.
"We have to figure out ways to make it relevant to that 12-year-old," San Francisco Giants president Larry Baer said. "I have four children, and we want to make baseball as relevant as possible to them with their handheld and on television and getting more people playing the sport. Those are all big challenges, and I think Rob sees all of those in his purview, and I think he's ready to attack."
"I am confident he will be an outstanding commissioner and I look forward to working with Rob to build upon Commissioner Selig's outstanding legacy," ESPN president John Skipper said in a statement.
Selig is the second-longest-serving head of baseball behind Kenesaw Mountain Landis (1920-44).
Werner, 64, was the controlling owner of the San Diego Padres from 1990 to '94, triggering fan criticism for the payroll-paring departures of Fred McGriff, Gary Sheffield, Tony Fernandez, Randy Myers and Benito Santiago. He has been part of the Red Sox ownership group since 2002, a period that included three World Series titles. While working at ABC, he helped develop Robin Williams' "Mork & Mindy" and later was executive producer of "The Cosby Show" and "Roseanne" at The Carsey-Werner Co.
Information from ESPN.com's Jayson Stark and The Associated Press was used in this report.