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.
Sep 1, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
It’s pretty nice. But it also cost $1.6M.
Sep 1, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
He’s running out of time.
Sep 1, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT
At least he claims he did. Hmmmmm . . .
Sep 1, 2015, 9:10 AM EDT
Bananas: an essential element in Team Chemistry.
Sep 1, 2015, 8:44 AM EDT
Put differently: It ain’t so.
Sep 1, 2015, 7:25 AM EDT
Matt Williams wears sunglasses like this so you cannot tell that he is asleep.
Sep 1, 2015, 12:51 AM EDT
Ruggiano will provide some depth with Yasiel Puig and Enrique Hernandez on the disabled list.
Sep 1, 2015, 12:37 AM EDT
The Giants made a last-minute deal before the waiver trade deadline expired, picking up outfielder Alejandro De Aza from the Red Sox.
Aug 31, 2015, 11:35 PM EDT
Miller could use a little bit of luck these days.
Aug 31, 2015, 10:12 PM EDT
Olt was designated for assignment after the Cubs acquired Austin Jackson from the Mariners.
Aug 31, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT
Enrique Hernandez has begun to take away playing time from the struggling Joc Pederson in recent days, but now the Dodgers will have to make due without him for a while.
Aug 31, 2015, 9:43 PM EDT
Gomes, 34, is batting .221/.325/.364 with seven home runs and 22 RBI over 83 games this season.
Aug 31, 2015, 8:45 PM EDT
CC Sabathia was shut down earlier this month due to an arthritic condition in his right knee.
Aug 31, 2015, 7:53 PM EDT
Kiermaier makes a leaping catch to rob Manny Machado of a home run.
Aug 31, 2015, 7:04 PM EDT
Marco Gonzales is expected to start in his place Tuesday.
Aug 31, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT
De Aza is batting .292 with 18 extra-base hits (including four home runs), 25 RBI, and an .831 OPS in 60 games since joining the Red Sox in June.
Aug 31, 2015, 6:21 PM EDT
Jackson, an impending free agent, is batting .272/.312/.387 with eight home runs, 38 RBI, and 15 stolen bases over 107 games this season.
Aug 31, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT
The Astros will have their young phenom back at shortstop tonight against the Mariners.
Aug 31, 2015, 5:04 PM EDT
Color me dubious.
Aug 31, 2015, 4:25 PM EDT
He hasn’t played since last Wednesday and now will miss at least the next three games.
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