Seeking diversity, Selig backs Cooper as Astros' full-time manager

HOUSTON -- Houston Astros interim manager Cecil Cooper has one important vote in favor of making his job permanent.

In a telephone interview with Houston television station KRIV, MLB commissioner Bud Selig
said that retaining Cooper as the Astros manager after this season is important for a sport that has received considerable criticism in recent years for its lack of black players and managers.

"Nobody's pulling for him harder than me," Selig told KRIV. "I think it's very important. I really do. I think he really has earned this opportunity. Hopefully, this is a long-term proposition."

Owner Drayton McLane appointed Cooper as interim manager on Monday after Phil Garner was fired.

The 49-year-old Cooper is the 14th black manager in the history of major league baseball, and one of three currently managing a big-league team. Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers and Willie
Randolph with the New York Mets are the others.

"This is a big thing," Selig told KRIV. "I'm very proud of Drayton McLane and the Houston Astros for doing what they've done. I can tell you they won't be sorry. Cecil Cooper is a classy guy who deserves an opportunity and I'm very confident he'll do very well.

"When Drayton called to tell me what he was doing my heart started pounding a little bit. I cannot tell you how important this is."

Selig said the lack of diversity in managerial hires in the last few years has been discouraging, but he views Cooper's opportunity as a chance for change.

"All I've said to the clubs in the past decade is the pool of candidates should be wide. It should be diverse. It's in your best interest," Seilg told KRIV. "I'm proud of the fact that the clubs at all the levels have really been very conscientious in that regard. I've been in the past a bit disappointed. We were up to 10 minority managers at one time and we've dropped back. So this is a very, very big event for baseball and for me.

"Baseball plays such a great role in American society and to have diversity at levels like managers and general managers -- I've often said we are a social institution with enormous social responsibilities. So we've not only met the social responsibilities, but you've got one helluva baseball man as the manager."

When Selig owned the Milwaukee Brewers, Cooper played for him from 1977-87.

"I've known Cecil Cooper now for 30 plus years," Selig told KRIV. "He's one of the finest gentlemen I've ever known. I loved having him [in Milwaukee] as a player. My love and respect for Cecil Cooper is enormous but I'm pulling for him for a lot of reasons. Not the least of which frankly is that he is a minority candidate."

In 1975, Frank Robinson became baseball's first black manager
when he took over the Cleveland Indians.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.