Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig announced Thursday that he will retire once his contract expires on January 24, 2015.
The 79-year-old Selig has served in the commissioner's role since September of 1992, initially on an acting basis following the resignation of Fay Vincent, and was given permanent duties in 1998.
"I am grateful to the owners throughout Major League Baseball for their unwavering support and for allowing me to lead this great institution," said Selig in a statement. "I thank our players, who give me unlimited enthusiasm about the future of our game. Together we have taken this sport to new heights and have positioned our national pastime to thrive for generations to come. Most of all, I would like to thank our fans, who are the heart and soul of our game."
Selig had previously stated his intentions to retire on other occasions. He considered leaving his post in 2006, then later agreed to a three-year extension after speculation grew that he would step down in 2008.
Another contract extension came in January 2012, at which time Selig said he intended to retire after the deal expired after the 2014 season. He confirmed those intentions on Thursday.
"It remains my great privilege to serve the game I have loved throughout my life," said Selig. "Baseball is the greatest game ever invented, and I look forward to continuing its extraordinary growth and addressing several significant issues during the remainder of my term.
During Selig's reign, baseball split the American and National League into three divisions each with a wild card for expanded playoffs, implemented interleague play, added a second wild card and also introduced instant replay.
"Bud Selig is an inspirational leader," stated Atlanta Braves chairman emeritus Bill Bartholomy. "As Commissioner, he has led changes that have brought all of Major League Baseball to a new level of support as America's Game. The labor peace we enjoy today was once a distant dream for this sport. On the field, every club has a chance to win. Success is no longer driven by the size of the payroll but by sound planning and decision-making.
Selig was also instrumental in the creation of Jackie Robinson Day, during which all current players wear Robinson's retired former No. 42 jersey on April 15 of each season.
"I have the utmost respect for the manner in which the Commissioner has celebrated the legacy of Jackie Robinson for a new generation and how he has prioritized diversity through initiatives like the Civil Rights Game," said Bartholomy.
Selig's time as commissioner was not without controversy, however. Performance-enhancing drug scandals became prevalent under his watch, although -- thanks in part to Congress -- he has helped author one of the most stringent drug policies in sports.
His early tenure was also marred by a lenghty players strike in 1994 that caused the cancellation of that year's World Series and entire postseason. Baseball has not had a work stoppage since, however.
Before taking over in the commissioner's office, Selig had been the principal owner of the Milwaukee Brewers since 1970. He transferred his interest in the team to his daughter upon moving into MLB's executive role, with the Selig family controlling the franchise until 2005.