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 4, 2015, 12:23 AM EDT
The Brewers acted quickly to find a new manager after firing Ron Roenicke on Sunday night.
May 3, 2015, 11:55 PM EDT
The Dodgers acquired first baseman Andy Wilkins from the Blue Jays and designated Scott Baker for assignment on Sunday.
May 3, 2015, 11:35 PM EDT
The Padres are expected to promote catching prospect Austin Hedges on Monday.
May 3, 2015, 11:10 PM EDT
The Athletics released Cody Ross on Sunday.
May 3, 2015, 10:29 PM EDT
Ron Roenicke is the first casualty of the Brewers’ poor start to the season.
May 3, 2015, 10:25 PM EDT
Would Joe Mauer better serve the Twins in the leadoff spot?
May 3, 2015, 9:20 PM EDT
White Sox manager Robin Ventura has taken some heat for the team’s slow start, but first baseman Jose Abreu stuck up for him.
May 3, 2015, 8:15 PM EDT
Jean Segura was hit in the head by a pitch attempting to bunt. Thankfully, he appears to be okay.
May 3, 2015, 7:10 PM EDT
The Cardinals won again in walk-off fashion and now own baseball’s best record.
May 3, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT
The Astros keep on winning.
May 3, 2015, 5:14 PM EDT
Lyons has served as a spot starter and long reliever for the Cardinals at various points over the last two seasons. He owns an ugly 4.62 ERA in 89 2/3 career major league innings, but his 1.216 career WHIP and 7.9 career K/9 aren’t too bad-looking.
May 3, 2015, 4:28 PM EDT
Colvin opted out of his minor league deal with the Marlins at the end of spring training after failing to make the Opening Day roster and spent a month looking for a new gig.
May 3, 2015, 3:40 PM EDT
That was the first career grand slam for Plouffe. The 28-year-old third baseman also homered in Saturday’s 5-3 win over the visiting White Sox and now has five home runs on the young season.
May 3, 2015, 2:53 PM EDT
Varvaro was designated for assignment by Boston on April 29 after struggling badly in three straight relief appearances. He was very good in 2014 with the Braves …
May 3, 2015, 2:16 PM EDT
He was actually sent back to Chicago on Saturday while the team finishes up a four-game series at Minnesota’s Target Field.
May 3, 2015, 1:22 PM EDT
Walden felt discomfort in his right arm while warming up on Saturday afternoon. He told reporters after Saturday’s game that he’s not concerned, but it’s a scary situation for the Cardinals given how well the 27-year-old setup man pitched in April.
May 3, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT
Moore is scheduled throw around 20 pitches to his Tampa Bay teammates before their series finale on Sunday afternoon against the Orioles.
May 3, 2015, 11:43 AM EDT
Veteran outfielder Michael Bourn was held out of the Indians’ starting lineup on Saturday with what was called a cervical strain. That sounded like a pretty serious injury, but all appears to be fine …
May 3, 2015, 10:51 AM EDT
It was a very disappointing April for Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings, who hit .222/.306/.238 in 18 games. And now his May is off to a rough start too.
May 3, 2015, 10:04 AM EDT
Marisnick is also getting it done at the plate for the Astros, who are on a nine-game winning streak and have opened a six-game lead over the Angels in the American League West standings.
- Report: Brewers hire Craig Counsell to replace Ron Roenicke 2
- Brewers fire manager Ron Roenicke 37
- Jordan Walden lands on disabled list with biceps injury 11
- Rays place outfielder Desmond Jennings on 15-day disabled list with bursitis in his left knee 1
- Settling the Score: Saturday’s results 34
- Torii Hunter doesn’t care what Floyd Mayweather has done outside of the boxing ring 131
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman acknowledges team won’t pay A-Rod $6 million bonus for 660th home run 69
- Willie Mays congratulates Alex Rodriguez for reaching 660 career home runs 33
- Pitchers batting is dumb and the DH should be universal (363)
- Comment of the Day: do not underestimate the seriousness of the anti-DH crowd (201)
- Monday’s White Sox/Orioles game postponed due to ongoing protests and violence in Baltimore (162)
- Torii Hunter doesn’t care what Floyd Mayweather has done outside of the boxing ring (131)
- The Orioles will play to no fans tomorrow; this weekend’s series will move to Tropicana Field (125)