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.
May 27, 2015, 8:42 AM EDT
Major League Baseball will likely fine Cash for his postgame comments. Because, while umpires don’t have much apparent accountability for their actions, managers do.
May 27, 2015, 7:21 AM EDT
Four walkoff wins last night.
May 26, 2015, 11:27 PM EDT
Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander took what might be the final step before a rehab assignment Tuesday afternoon at Oakland’s O.Co Coliseum …
May 26, 2015, 10:32 PM EDT
Brewers shortstop Jean Segura appeared to be in for an extended absence when he landed on the disabled list May 14 with a fracture in the pinkie on his throwing hand …
May 26, 2015, 9:56 PM EDT
FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal says the trade is done and is only awaiting approval from the commissioner’s office.
May 26, 2015, 9:45 PM EDT
Check out this laser shot that Hunter Pence crushed Tuesday night at Milwaukee’s Miller Park …
May 26, 2015, 9:21 PM EDT
Great news on rehabbing ace Jose Fernandez.
May 26, 2015, 8:13 PM EDT
This wasn’t really a great catch by Josh Harrison because he bungled the route, but it did look cool …
May 26, 2015, 7:49 PM EDT
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com Monday that he is tired of fans who “bitch and complain” about the moves made by his front office. He went on an apology tour for those comments Tuesday …
May 26, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT
Mets ace Matt Harvey had the worst start of his young major league career on Saturday against the Pirates, surrendering seven runs in four innings, and manager Terry Collins indicated a few days later that Harvey is fighting through a period of “dead arm.”
May 26, 2015, 6:12 PM EDT
Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips missed back-to-back games earlier this month after being diagnosed with a painful case of turf toe in his left foot, and now the problem has resurfaced.
May 26, 2015, 5:18 PM EDT
Lucroy finished fourth in the MVP voting last season.
May 26, 2015, 4:55 PM EDT
Charter Communications customers in Glendale, Burbank, Malibu and Long Beach will be getting the Dodgers’ network within the next few weeks.
May 26, 2015, 4:37 PM EDT
McGehee and his $4.8 million salary predictably cleared waivers.
May 26, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
Five starting positions out of nine slots currently belong to Royals players.
May 26, 2015, 2:48 PM EDT
Dan Jennings’ managerial career is off to an interesting start.
May 26, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT
Good news for the Reds’ biggest trade chit — er, I mean, for their ace.
May 26, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
In other news, why do we take pitchers at their word when they claim that they’re not really trying to get something extra on the ball?
May 26, 2015, 1:48 PM EDT
Signed to a two-year, $16 million deal this offseason, Morse has hit just .211 with two homers and a .557 OPS in 37 games.
May 26, 2015, 1:28 PM EDT
Bundy was scratched from his scheduled start at Double-A.
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights 9
- So that Juan Uribe trade to the Braves is back on … 9
- Ruben Amaro apologizes for comments about fans, admits he may have been late on rebuild 23
- Jonathan Lucroy expected to rejoin the Brewers on Monday 0
- More drama in Miami: Marlins demote third base coach Brett Butler after “confusion” over signs 34
- Ruben Amaro dismisses fans who “bitch and complain” about the Phillies’ moves 70
- And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights 68
- Reds finally shut down Devin Mesoraco seven weeks after hip injury, surgery may be needed 7
- And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights (133)
- Bryce Harper on Marvin Hudson ejection: “I don’t think 40,000 people came to watch him ump” (132)
- Bryce Harper ejected for second time in a week (122)
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights (101)
- And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights (96)