Results tagged ‘ Curt Flood ’

Marvin Miller, The Man Who Reinvented Baseball

Last season, $10,000 would have bought you eight front-row tickets to one regular season game at Yankee Stadium.

In 1966, $10,000 was the average salary of a Major League Baseball Player.

1966 was not one of the years of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency. Inflation since then has not been 7500 percent.  Reggie Jackson and Johnny Bench and Nolan Ryan were on the cusp of the majors, the Mets had just gotten the right to sign Tom Seaver, three-year old Jamie Moyer had already thrown a baseball, and Peter Gammons had just begun to write sports for The North Carolina Daily Tar Heel.

1966 is not ancient history. And as Marvin Miller became the head of the nascent Major League Players Association that season, Sandy Koufax was pitching his last campaign for the Dodgers. To get Walter O’Malley Dodgers to pay Koufax just $125,000, Koufax and Don Drysdale had to threaten to sit out the season. Along side them on the Dodgers’ pitching staff, a rookie named Don Sutton was being paid $6,000. Sutton was hoping to soon reach the income of the average major leaguer. Ten Grand didn’t exactly leave you homeless, but if you didn’t also have a regular working stiff’s job in the off-season, it wasn’t enough to raise a family on.

And Marvin Miller changed that.

You can argue that the pendulum Marvin unleashed from its artificial restraint has swung too far to the other side (and you’d be wrong – who is about to sign a six billion dollar contract? The new Dodgers owners, or Evan Longoria?) You can argue that what Marvin wrought has destroyed competitive balance and especially the small markets (and you’d be wrong – in the 18 seasons before his ascent, the Yankees had won 15 pennants and the Dodgers had won nine, and the team then in Kansas City had finished last or in the bottom four 13 times). You can argue that the freedom Marvin enabled has destroyed the continuity of players and made the one-team player nearly extinct (and you’d be wrong – there are 41 Hall of Famers who played for only one team, and a disproportionate number, 11, are from the Free Agent era. The only thing that’s changed is that the players can now initiate their own jarring relocation, not just the owners).

You can also argue that free agency and everything else Marvin Miller accomplished has created that bill for $10,000 for eight tickets at Yankee Stadium, and you’d be wrong yet again. As someone long ago observed, this assumption requires the secondary one that the owners would never have raised prices if there hadn’t been free agency. That assumption ignores the fundaments of business, to say nothing of the reality of baseball pre-Marvin Miller, in which the owners managed to quadruple ticket prices while barely doubling player salaries. As the realities of the new economics of the game unfolded in the ’70s and ’80s it became obvious that for years, for decades, for generations, the owners had been keeping 70, 80, or maybe 90 percent of all revenues, and that even as society grew more affluent and the definitions of disposable income and luxury almost switched places, the owners kept hitting the players over the head with the economic hammer just because they could.

One thing you can not argue is that Marvin Miller hurt the owners. This used to be the first response to the Major League Baseball Players Association that he built: that the man that Braves’ Vice President Paul Richards called a “mustachioed four-flusher” was a communist or a socialist or anarchist who would destroy the game, its owners, and their God-given right to profit. It was an act of faith for owners and Commissioners and even a huge percentage of players (Stockholm Syndrome) that without the Reserve Clause that Miller and Curt Flood and Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally and Peter Seitz brought down, teams would go bankrupt, or at best the small markets would never compete nor last (in the 19 years ending in 1972, 10 franchises moved. In the 40 years since, one moved).

As the first wave of Free Agents mourn him, and all the players since give distant thanks, the owners ought to build statues to Marvin Miller. According to an anecdote told by their then-VPs Buzzy Bavasi and Fresco Thompson, the Dodgers profited six million dollars in 1963 and four million in 1964 (and thus owner Walter O’Malley complained that he’d “lost” two million). That the Dodgers – and everybody else – went from those then-dizzying figures to tens of millions, then hundreds, then to signing multi-billion dollar tv deals – is directly attributable to the new economics that Miller unleashed.

He, personally, put the word “billion” into baseball. Into all sports, for that matter. And via the miracle of imitation, probably into other forms of entertainment.

Marvin once admitted to me that he did not foresee the intangibles that the liberated player would create. Who could have known that player contract negotiations and the covering of them and the kibitzing about them would become an industry that would rival coverage of the game on the field itself? Baseball’s off-seasons used to have occasional trade rumors, an invigorating flurry of deals at the all-too-brief Winter Meetings, and the searing experience of the release of veteran former stars late in Spring Training.

And then suddenly you could spend weeks wondering where Reggie Jackson would go – and the Free Agent Season was born. And suddenly fans, battered by decades of owner disloyalty and now confused by the added mobility of the players, decided they could create their own teams – and Fantasy Baseball was born. And then teams began to offload unsignable players and the drama of the Trade Deadline took on new form and dimensions. And then the idea of trying to scientifically put the proverbial dollar sign on the muscle replaced the “Sign Wayne Garland – he won 20!” methodology, and SABRmetrics began to gain a head of steam that is years away from culmination.

In that he utterly reshaped the way the game was played on the field, Babe Ruth probably reigns supreme on the list of those who changed baseball most. In that they reshaped its color (and our nation’s attitude – and laws), Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson probably share second place. But only they can even be considered above Marvin Miller as men who had greater influence on the history of baseball. As an aside, I do not slight Curt Flood here. I revered him, and was honored to have met him. Conceivably he sacrificed a Hall of Fame career to try to gain for himself and his colleagues the freedom Miller and the arbitrator Seitz and some lunkheaded owners, and Dave McNally and Andy Messersmith finally gave them. But remember that Marvin Miller tried to talk Flood out of suing, and warned him that he was not operating from a position of strength, and that the players did not yet understand why they needed to support him, and that he would probably lose his case. As always, Marvin was – tragically – right. Curt Flood is just behind Miller on this list.

My first personal exposure to Marvin Miller came while covering the second wave of the union’s struggles, in the 1980’s. By 1981 the owners still didn’t see what gifts he had bestowed upon them, and they stubbornly tried to force him to take them back. The players had no choice but to strike, and for 50 days I got to cover Marvin’s profound sighs. I found myself fascinated watching him conduct himself with such an even keel, such aplomb, amid chaos and confusion and anger and fools who would not suffer him, gladly or otherwise. It was an unintentional education, and I later got to tell him so. I’d love to be as good at it some day as he was on his worst day.

Update 4:00 PM EDT: I was just re-watching Hot Stove’s coverage of Marvin’s passing and I thought this was a fitting picture to freeze from the ‘b-roll':

File footage from MLB Network 11/27/12

Marvin Miller, before or during the 1981 baseball strike negotiations. The guy in the mustache and the all-too-thin tie, back left, is a 22-year old radio reporter who would get his first tv shot because CNN’s strike correspondent took two weeks off after the strike was settled.

The original post resumes here:

Even in 1983 the union had its own internecine growing pains. One night I was coming home from CNN and walking up Third Avenue when I saw his unmistakably dapper figure walking down it, towards me. I was going to say hello, but even at a distance I could read that there was something even more focused than usual, even more purposeful, even more burdened, about the look on his face. I thought the least I could do as thanks for all his cooperation with me was to leave him alone.

Later that night I was bowled over to discover that the Union, the direction of which he had turned over to the mediator who had worked the 1981 strike, had rebelled against and unseated his successor. When I passed him on the street Marvin had been on his way to the meeting at which he would help the players rid themselves of the new director, and himself semi-reluctantly came out of semi-retirement to help Don Fehr get on his feet as the new chief.

I mentioned that to him when we spoke two Fridays ago. “I remember,” he said with a laugh. “I thought I was fortunate that that damn fool kid reporter didn’t recognize me!” The conversation did not dwell on the embarrassment that is his absence from the Hall of Fame, nor his complete repainting of the baseball landscape, nor the strikes and other tortures of his 17 years giving birth to his union. It was mostly about his fears for the loss of individual freedom in the American society that would so soon be without him.

Fitting, that, because whatever happened after he achieved it, Marvin Miller’s original goal as the head of the players’ union was freedom – to eliminate the nonsensical conclusion (improbably upheld by the Supreme Court) that because baseball players “played,” their bosses were not truly running interstate commerce. And thus, a 17-year old kid who signed a one-year contract with, say, the Philadelphia Phillies, was actually signing a 25-year contract. Each “one-year” agreement had a proviso allowing the owners to “renew” the contract for another year. And in the renewal year, the proviso re-set, and the contract could be “renewed” again.

It wasn’t actually slavery, but it sure as hell wasn’t freedom.

And that one word was what Marvin Miller was all about.

The Conscience Of Baseball, 1995

There wasn’t a lot of principle flying around in the winter of 1994-95.

The owners had pushed the players into threatening to call a stupid strike. The players misjudged the owners and the public mood and struck anyway. The owners stonewalled, cancelled the rest of the season and the playoffs. All but one of the owners recruited “replacement teams” filled with minor leaguers (some of them virtually blackmailed into it) and long-retired players (some in their late 40s) and trotted them out on the field for Spring Training of 1995.
And Sparky Anderson said no.
The Hall of Fame manager of the Reds and Tigers passed away Thursday, and his successes with both franchises were worthy of all the accolades he’s receiving posthumously. But not prominent in these recollections is what Sparky Anderson did when the proverbial rubber met the road in that dark March of 1995, when the owners were ready to put a guy who was on Anderson’s first Cincinnati team in 1970 on the mound a quarter century later and pretend it was still the Major Leagues.
Sparky Anderson said he didn’t want to pick sides in a labor dispute, that his only interest was the integrity of the game, but he just couldn’t participate in the “replacement” season. So, much to the horror of his management and the game’s, he took an unpaid leave of absence as manager of the Detroit Tigers. When a court ruling forced a settlement on the owners and the “replacements” vanished, Sparky came back for a troubled year in which ownership looked at him suspiciously and even some fans took out on him their frustrations about the strike. It would be his last season managing.
As suggested earlier, in terms of principled action there wasn’t much for Anderson’s gesture to compete with that nuclear winter and spring. The Orioles’ Peter Angelos refused to field a replacement team, but it was suggested that he had multiple motivations in so doing because a season of Baltimore baseball with Cal Ripken on the sidelines on strike would have taken the heart out of (and probably technically ended) Ripken’s pursuit of what was then Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games-played streak.
Thus Sparky Anderson was the conscience of the game in that awful time, and although hardly as destructive to his future associations with the sport, his actions of 1995 were in the same broad category as Curt Flood’s had been in the pursuit of a player’s right to have a say in where he played. Sparky’s decision was completely in character with the rest of his baseball life. It isn’t mentioned on his plaque at the Hall of Fame and probably shouldn’t be, but at this of all times it should be remembered alongside the World Championships and the unforgettable persona.

Cooperstown Path Cleared For Steinbrenner, Miller

George Steinbrenner is now eligible to be elected to the Hall of Fame as early as this December.

Since this is the first time any of my suggestions to modify Cooperstown voting procedures have come to pass, I tend to doubt my campaign to hasten Steinbrenner’s eligibility had anything to do with it. I’m happy enough about the coincidence.
The late Yankee owner is hardly the first man deserving of election to the Hall, but he is among the first 25 or 50, and anything that hastens the chances of any of them is, in short, fine by me. The entire Hall of Fame press release is attached below; translated, it means we’ve gone from votes conducted by job, to votes conducted by era. 
Miraculously, the eras have been divided into “Pre-Integration,” “Golden,” and “Expansion.” Miraculously, the players, umpires, and executives of the “Expansion” era will be voted upon first, this December. Miraculously, the eras have been defined in such a way that the “Expansion” era begins in 1973 (even though the expansions were in 1961, 1962, 1969, 1977, 1993, and 1998).
Guess what else began in 1973?
George Steinbrenner’s ownership of the Yankees.
It is an obvious ploy, but an ingenious one. And it has the added plus of making actual sense in terms of the grim realities of the actuarial table. Marvin Miller did not expect to make it to his next eligibility (2012). He too could be voted in by December, given that most of the changes he brought to baseball were post-1973. 
And it may even do something for Ron Santo, Gil Hodges, Curt Flood, Ken Boyer, Roger Maris, and so many others who have suffered in generalized votes that have forced voters to consider them outside of their own eras. Hodges the home run hitter looks like an after-thought in the whole spectrum of swat, but in his own time, his success (he retired in 1963 with the second most homers by any right handed batter to that point) may finally stand out sufficiently to get him elected.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                    
July 26, 2010 
 

Hall of Fame Board of Directors Restructures 
Procedures for Consideration of

Managers, Umpires, Executives and Long-Retired Players 

 

 

(COOPERSTOWNNY) – The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Board of Directors has restructured the procedures to consider managers, umpires, executives and long-retired players for election to the Hall of Fame.

 

The changes, effective immediately, maintain the high standards for earning election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The voting process will now focus on three eras, as opposed to four categories, with three separate electorates to consider a single composite ballot of managers, umpires, executives and long-retired players.  

 

“The procedures to consider the candidacies of managers, umpires, executives and long-retired players have continually evolved since the first Hall of Fame election in 1936,” said Jane Forbes Clark, chairman of the board for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.  “Our continual challenge is to provide a structure to ensure that all candidates who are worthy of consideration have a fair system of evaluation. In identifying candidates by era, as opposed to by category, the Board feels this change will allow for an equal review of all eligible candidates, while maintaining the high standards of earning election.”

 

The Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors includes:

 

Jane Forbes Clark (chairman)

Robert A. DuPuy

Jerry Reinsdorf

Allan H. “Bud” Selig

Joe Morgan (vice chairman)

William L. Gladstone

Brooks C. Robinson

Edward W. Stack

Kevin S. Moore (treasurer)

David D. Glass

Frank Robinson

 

Paul Beeston

Leland S. MacPhail Jr.

Dr. Harvey W. Schiller

 

William O. DeWitt Jr.

Phil Niekro

G. Thomas Seaver

 

 

         Eras: Candidates will be considered in three eras — Pre-Integration (1871-1946), Golden (1947-1972) and Expansion (1973-1989 for players; 1973-present for managers, umpires and executives).

 

         Candidates: One composite ballot of managers, umpires, executives and long-retired players will be considered in each era. The Expansion Era ballot will feature 12 candidates, while the Golden and Pre-Integration era ballots will feature 10 candidates. Candidates will be classified by the eras in which their greatest contributions were recorded.

 

         Electorates A Voting Committee of 16 members for each era will be appointed by the Board of Directors annually. Each committee will be comprised of Hall of Fame members, major league executives, and historians/veteran media members. Any candidate who receives at least 75% of ballots cast will earn election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

 

         Frequency of Elections: An election will be held annually at the Winter Meetings. The Eras will rotate, with the Expansion Era Committee to vote onDecember 5, 2010 at the Winter Meetings in OrlandoFla. The Golden Era committee will meet at the Winter Meetings in 2011 and the Pre-Integration Era Committee will vote on candidates at the 2012 Winter Meetings.

 

         Screening Process: The BBWAA-appointed Historical Overview Committee will devise the ballots for each era. The Historical Overview Committee currently consists of 10 veteran members: Dave Van Dyck(Chicago Tribune)Bob Elliott (Toronto Sun)Rick Hummel (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)Steve Hirdt (Elias Sports Bureau); Bill Madden (New York Daily News)Ken Nigro (formerly Baltimore Sun)Jack O’Connell (BBWAA secretary/treasurer); Nick Peters (formerly Sacramento Bee)Tracy Ringolsby (FSN Rocky Mountain); and Mark Whicker (Orange County Register).

 

         Eligible candidates:

      &n
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Players who played in at least 10 major league seasons, who are not on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list, and have been retired for 21 or more seasons;

         Managers and umpires with 10 or more years in baseball and retired for at least five years. Candidates who are 65 years or older are eligible six months following retirement;

         Executives retired for at least five years. Active executives 65 years or older are eligible.

 

 

 

 

Timetable for Upcoming Elections

 

 

DATE

 

ACTIVITY

WHO

October 2010

The Expansion Era (1973-1989) ballot is devised and released.

 

The BBWAA Historical Overview Committee.

 

December 2010

 

Meeting and Vote on Expansion Era (1973-1989) ballot at the Winter Meetings. 

 

 

A Committee of 16 individuals comprised of Hall of Fame members, veteran writers and historians, appointed by the Board of Directors. 

July 24, 2011

Induction of Expansion Era Committee selections, if anyone elected.

 

 

October 2011

The Golden Era (1947-1972) ballot is devised and released.

 

The BBWAA Historical Overview Committee.

 

December 2011

 

Meeting and Vote on Golden Era (1947-1972) ballot at the Winter Meetings. 

 

 

A Committee of 16 individuals comprised of Hall of Fame members, veteran writers and historians, appointed by the Board of Directors. 

July 29, 2012

Induction of Golden Era Committee selections, if anyone elected.

 

 

October 2012

The Pre-Integration Era (1871-1946) ballot is devised and released.

 

The BBWAA Historical Overview Committee.

 

October 2012

 

Meeting and Vote on Pre-Integration Era (1871-1946) ballot at the Winter Meetings. 

 

 

A Committee of 16 individuals comprised of Hall of Fame members, veteran writers and historians, appointed by the Board of Directors. 

July 28, 2013

Induction of Pre-Integration Era Committee selections, if anyone elected.

 

 

 

 

And Curt Flood, Too

Great column by Bill Rhoden of The New York Times on what could be perceived as the interlocking Hall of Fame candidacies of George Steinbrenner and Curt Flood.

One pioneered Free Agency, the other turned it into the upwards spiral that created the sport we know today. Bill suggests that folks like me should press for Flood’s election, or special election if need be, and he’s perfectly correct. As I noted to him, I’ve been pushing for Curt since about 1990. If I may quote myself from Pocket Books’ The Big Show which I co-authored with Dan Patrick in 1997:
A few months before his thirty-second birthday, with twelve wonderful seasons behind him as the brilliant center fielder of the St. Louis Cardinals, Curt Flood was traded to the doormats of the National League, the Phillies. And he said no. He said you don’t have the right to ship my butt anywhere you please – not after I’ve given you a dozen years of my life. And he stood up against the establishment – and whatever you think the players have done to the game in the last twenty-five years, what the owners had done to the players for the 100 years previous was a million times worse. And Curt Flood refused to go, and he sued, and it cost him his career. This wasn’t some fringe guy; through 1969 he had 1,854 hits — all he needed was seven more average seasons to get to 3,000 — he’d batted .293 (only six guys outdid him and five of them are in the Hall), he’d slugged .390 (that was ninth best in the era), he’d had six .300 seasons, two seasons with 200 or more hits, he’d won seven straight Gold Gloves, and he’d been on three pennant winners and two World Champs. And he gave it all up. The man got exactly thirty-five more at-bats in his life. No million-dollar contract, no free agency, not even a job as a first base coach somewhere. He even lost the lawsuit – but he paved the way for the freedoms and salaries and rewards that those who followed enjoy to this day. He was thirty-two – and he gave it all up for a principle. The least he deserves in a plaque in Cooperstown.

In point of fact, as I once suggested on ESPN while Curt Flood was still alive, every player should have given him 1% of their salary.

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