Nov 27, 2012, 10:30 AM EDT
Marvin Miller, the legendary leader of the Major League Baseball Player’s Association, has died at age 95. No word on the exact cause of death, but he had been ill for some time.
It is impossible to overstate Miller’s impact on Major League Baseball. While some — including Hall of Fame voters — have long given Miller short shrift (or piled on utter disdain), baseball today cannot be understood without understanding Marvin Miller’s contributions. He was a truly transformative figure who, after Jackie Robinson, did more to correct the excesses and injustices delivered onto players by baseball’s ruling class than anyone.
When Miller took over as the head of the MLBPA in 1966 there was no free agency. Players were told by ownership what they would make the following year and if they didn’t like it, tough. They couldn’t switch teams. They couldn’t do what any other worker can do and shop their services elsewhere. They were stuck thanks to baseball’s reserve clause and the ridiculous Supreme Court decision which exempted baseball and its owners from the antitrust laws.
Miller took all of that on and he won. He started small, negotiating the union’s first collective bargaining agreement with the team owners in 1968, which raised the game’s minimum salary from $6,000 to $10,000. In 1970 he got the owners to agree to arbitration for the first time. In 1970 Curt Flood, with Miller’s support and guidance, challenged baseball’s antitrust exemption — and the dreaded reserve clause, which kept players tied to one team against their wishes — in the courts. Flood ultimately lost that case in the landmark 1972 Supreme Court decision. The decision did not, however, blunt Miller’s resolve, and he took his fight to other forums.
In 1974 he exploited a loophole — and an oversight by Oakland Athletics owner Charlie O. Finley — to get Catfish Hunter free agency and baseball’s first $1 million contract. Up next: the whole enchilada. In 1974, he got Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally to play out the season without contracts, placing them in cross-hairs of the reserve clause and giving them standing to fight the provision in arbitration. In 1975 they won, with the Seitz Decision ushering in the age of free agency. Baseball players’ indentured servitude was over.
In all Miller led the union through three work stoppages: two short ones — 1972 and in spring training 1980 — and then the long, season-altering strike in 1981. In all three stoppages, the union prevailed. Overall during his tenure the average players’ salary rose from $19,000 to $241,000 a year and their working conditions improved dramatically. It is no understatement to say that Miller turned the MLBPA into the most effective and successful labor union in the United States. Not just in sports: in the entire United States.
Miller, however, paid a cost for these victories, being snubbed repeatedly in Hall of Fame voting. Baseball’s executives — who played a part in his voting — resented him. Some players on the Veteran’s Committee who came before the era of free agency did as well. Miller never helped his own case, of course — he was at terms feisty, abrasive and mostly dismissive of the Hall of Fame and his own candidacy for it — but the fact remains that his exclusion is a travesty. This is especially true given that so many executives and owners who did so much to harm players’ well-being through greed, racism and other vile impulses have been welcomed in to Cooperstown with open arms.
But whether he ever makes the Hall of Fame or not, baseball would not be what it is today, both as a business and a game, without Marvin Miller. Indeed, you can count the people who have made as great or greater a contribution than Miller to the context in which the game is played on one hand. In this regard his legacy is inviolate.
RIP Marvin Miller. The game will never see his like again.
Jul 31, 2015, 3:22 AM EDT
It’s fortunate this one didn’t get ugly.
Jul 31, 2015, 2:51 AM EDT
We’re recapping all of the deals as they come down.
Jul 31, 2015, 12:24 AM EDT
Leake has a 3.56 ERA and 90/34 K/BB ratio in 136 2/3 innings over 21 starts this season.
Jul 31, 2015, 12:00 AM EDT
The Astros completed a three-game sweep of the Angels and now hold a two-game lead in the American League West.
Jul 30, 2015, 11:29 PM EDT
Gallardo isn’t going into the trade deadline on a high note, as he has allowed five runs in three straight starts.
Jul 30, 2015, 10:55 PM EDT
The Diamondbacks are trying to make a play for All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman.
Jul 30, 2015, 10:20 PM EDT
It was made possible due to a misplay by Jacoby Ellsbury in center field.
Jul 30, 2015, 9:33 PM EDT
The Brewers traded center fielder Carlos Gomez to the Astros earlier tonight along with right-hander Mike Fiers and they could be close to another deal.
Jul 30, 2015, 9:08 PM EDT
As the Mets try to pick up the pieces after their deal for Carlos Gomez fell apart, they reportedly have an interesting proposal to consider from the Reds.
Jul 30, 2015, 8:40 PM EDT
Morse is owed $8 million next season, but the Dodgers covered it in order to complete Thursday’s 13-player trade with the Marlins and Braves.
Jul 30, 2015, 7:33 PM EDT
Carlos Gomez was nearly dealt to the Mets last night before the deal fell apart, but it didn’t take long for the Brewers to find a new suitor.
Jul 30, 2015, 7:10 PM EDT
It wasn’t too long ago that we were talking about the White Sox as sellers, but now they are trying to buy a big bat.
Jul 30, 2015, 6:32 PM EDT
Angels slugger Mike Trout is back in tonight’s lineup against the Astros after missing two games with left wrist inflammation.
Jul 30, 2015, 6:09 PM EDT
After dealing ace David Price to the Blue Jays earlier today, the Tigers have traded closer Joakim Soria to the Pirates.
Jul 30, 2015, 5:05 PM EDT
Of course, experience is education too, and based on that I’m quite sure that even the most intelligent Marlins fan would be justified in being confused and thinking the organization has no clue whatsoever.
Jul 30, 2015, 4:44 PM EDT
No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 draft behind Stephen Strasburg.
Jul 30, 2015, 4:20 PM EDT
Carlos Correa has shortstop covered for a while.
Jul 30, 2015, 4:07 PM EDT
Defeat from the jaws of victory and then they got all wet.
Jul 30, 2015, 3:50 PM EDT
Nava hit .303 in 134 games for the Red Sox in 2013, playing a key role in the team’s World Series title.
Jul 30, 2015, 3:46 PM EDT
It’s like we’re in Philly all over again.
- 2015 MLB Trade Deadline Tracker 5
- Giants to acquire Mike Leake from Reds 14
- Astros acquire Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers from Brewers 40
- Pirates bolster bullpen, pick up Joakim Soria from Tigers 11
- The extraordinarily odd, 13-player Dodgers-Marlins-Braves trade is done 62
- Blue Jays acquire David Price from the Tigers 111
- Both the Phillies and the Rangers did well in the Cole Hamels trade 72
- Rangers land ace left-hander Cole Hamels from Phillies 106
- The MLBPA is considering withholding cooperation with ESPN, Fox over Colin Cowherd’s comments (157)
- The Cubs are in discussions with the Phillies on Cole Hamels (146)
- Major League Baseball rips Colin Cowherd in an official statement (123)
- Blue Jays acquire David Price from the Tigers (111)
- Rangers land ace left-hander Cole Hamels from Phillies (106)