Nov 27, 2012, 10:30 AM EST
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.
Feb 26, 2015, 11:02 PM EST
While Daniel Murphy would like to discuss a contract extension with the Mets, it looks like a foregone conclusion that he will test free agency after the 2015 season.
Feb 26, 2015, 9:49 PM EST
Braves outfielder Nick Markakis recently expressed frustration about how contract talks with the Orioles broke down over the winter.
Feb 26, 2015, 8:40 PM EST
Victorino gave up hitting from the left side late in 2013, but he’s ready to give it another shot.
Feb 26, 2015, 7:15 PM EST
It will be Harvey’s first game action since he underwent Tommy John surgery 16 months ago.
Feb 26, 2015, 6:06 PM EST
Santana hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 due to injury.
Feb 26, 2015, 5:17 PM EST
“I think hanging it up is going to be harder for guys than they realize, after being out of it for a year.”
Feb 26, 2015, 3:40 PM EST
But it’s a very different kind of battle.
Feb 26, 2015, 3:18 PM EST
Milwaukee out, Toronto in?
Feb 26, 2015, 2:06 PM EST
Shame on A-Rod for making the reporters obsess about him.
Feb 26, 2015, 1:34 PM EST
Maybe THIS is the year he finally stops swinging at everything
Feb 26, 2015, 1:19 PM EST
Wainwright has been diagnosed with an abdominal strain.
Feb 26, 2015, 12:30 PM EST
It’s been two and a half years, but it still leaves a “dirty taste” in his mouth.
Feb 26, 2015, 11:47 AM EST
Pena once looked like a potential star for the Reds and Red Sox, but then washed out by age 26.
Feb 26, 2015, 11:32 AM EST
He also (a) wants to emulate Greg Maddux; and (b) asked Sandy Koufax about his curveball.
Feb 26, 2015, 11:00 AM EST
Welcome to 2002, Ruben Amaro!
Feb 26, 2015, 10:49 AM EST
It’s still early, but …
Feb 26, 2015, 10:23 AM EST
Two weeks ago Francisco Rodriguez was said to be holding out for a two-year contract.
Feb 26, 2015, 10:04 AM EST
The Marins are protecting their investment.
Feb 26, 2015, 9:37 AM EST
Even if Mike Lupica thinks they will be soon.
Feb 26, 2015, 9:00 AM EST
Spring training is starting poorly for Toronto.
- Francisco Rodriguez re-signs with the Brewers 8
- If addiction is an illness — and it is — Josh Hamilton shouldn’t be suspended 272
- Pirates open to massive extension for Andrew McCutchen 16
- Report: Josh Hamilton had a relapse this offseason that “involved at least cocaine” 85
- Yankees don’t plan on having to pay A-Rod’s $30 million in home run milestone bonuses 49
- San Francisco — and all of California — will consider a smokeless tobacco ban that includes MLB parks 131
- Rob Manfred says a return to a 154-game season could happen one day 66
- Report: The Yankees were “fuming” at how A-Rod handled his early arrival to spring training 114
- If addiction is an illness — and it is — Josh Hamilton shouldn’t be suspended (275)
- San Francisco — and all of California — will consider a smokeless tobacco ban that includes MLB parks (131)
- Report: The Yankees were “fuming” at how A-Rod handled his early arrival to spring training (114)
- Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada reportedly signs with the Red Sox for $31.5 million, plus $31.5 million in penalties (106)
- Gregg Zaun says young players should be physically abused and hazed by veterans. So they can learn respect. (105)