Legendary Baseball Union Leader Marvin Miller died at age 95 today. As former head of the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) from 1966 to 1982, Miller helped transform the players’ union into one of the strongest unions in the United States, and is commonly cited as sports most influential figure since Jackie Robinson. And despite his accomplishments or, more accurately, because of his accomplishments, Miller continues to be denied entrance into the Baseball Hall of Fame just like Curt Flood, the man he once represented in challenging baseball’s reserve clause that fixed players to their teams for their careers.
Excerpts from the following posts address Marvin Miller’s sports legacy and Hall of Fame omission travesty.
Postscript: Marvin Miller, 1917-2012, Malcom Gladwell, The New Yorker
There have always been two sides to American professional sports. The first is the beautiful game on the field. The second is the sordid world of the owner’s box, in which very rich men who call themselves capitalists build taxpayer-supported monopolies on the backs of players and fans.
No one knew the second world better than Marvin Miller. He was a hard-nosed union man who took over the Major League Baseball Player’s Association in 1966. At the time, the relationship between the baseball owners and players was—to put it charitably—feudal. Under the so-called reserve clause, the owner held the rights to players in perpetuity. Players were paid, played, and traded at the whims of management. The players’ union was run by someone appointed by the owners. When the owners wanted to change the terms of a player’s pension, they just went ahead and did it—and seemed stunned when the players thought that they ought to have been consulted. Within a decade, Miller put a stop to all of that. He called the first successful strike in the history of professional sports. He led the fight against the reserve clause. He ushered in free agency. The world that we see now, of multi-million-dollar contracts and players selling their talents on the open market, is the world that Marvin Miller created.
The scope of Miller’s achievements mark him as one of the most significant figures in baseball history, right there with Alexander Cartwright—the closest thing there is to an identifiable inventor of the game—and Branch Rickey, who led the sport’s integration and created the farm system. As outsized as his greatest triumphs were, though—he was more or less directly responsible for the creation of free agency, led the only really successful strikes in the history of American sports, and built what is often described as the most powerful union in the country—his impact is in some ways best described by his smaller victories.
Marvin Miller and the How Free Agency Came to Baseball, Part I, Peter Bendix, SB Nation – Beyond the Box Score
In 1890, baseball players formed the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players. In 1900, they formed the Players’ Protective Association. In 1910 they formed the Fraternity of Professional Baseball Players of America. And in 1946 they formed the American Baseball Guild. But none of these unions had any lasting power whatsoever.
Assessing Marvin Miller’s Legacy Upon Sports Business Industry, Patrick Rishe, Forbes
Loved or hated, there is no debate that Marvin Miller, who died Tuesday at the age of 95, is one of the 5 most influential figures in American sports history because of his impact on (1) Sports Economics and (2) Owner-Player Relations
The Man Who Reinvented Baseball, Baseball Nerd: Official MLBlog of Keith Olbermann
You can argue that the pendulum Marvin unleashed from its artificial restraint has swung too far to the other side (and you’d be wrong – who is about to sign a six billion dollar contract? The new Dodgers owners, or Evan Longoria?) You can argue that what Marvin wrought has destroyed competitive balance and especially the small markets (and you’d be wrong – in the 18 seasons before his ascent, the Yankees had won 15 pennants and the Dodgers had won nine, and the team then in Kansas City had finished last or in the bottom four 13 times). You can argue that the freedom Marvin enabled has destroyed the continuity of players and made the one-team player nearly extinct (and you’d be wrong – there are 41 Hall of Famers who played for only one team, and a disproportionate number, 11, are from the Free Agent era. The only thing that’s changed is that the players can now initiate their own jarring relocation, not just the owners).
Thanks, Marvin: A Tribute To Marvin Miller, Bob Corker (former player)
Players, managers, and coaches in every major sport, not just baseball, profited from Marvin’s concepts. Every professional athlete, whether he’s Michael Jordan, Joe Montana, Wayne Gretzky, or the last man on the major league roster, should have tears of gratitude streaming down his face…
This website is created for baseball players, and indeed all professional athletes, regardless of the sport, to say thank you. A few select media and ownership people will share their thoughts as well. (Note: comprehensive ThanksMarvin website contains many past Miller articles and player quotes)
HALL OF FAME TRAVESTY
Hall of Shame, Allen Berra, Village Voice (2007)
Hank Aaron: “Marvin Miller should be in the Hall of Fame if the players have to break down the doors to get him in.”
Tom Seaver: “Marvin’s exclusion from the Hall of Fame is a national disgrace.”
Joe Morgan: “They should vote him in and then apologize for making him wait so long.”
Bob Costas: “There is no non-player more deserving of the Hall of Fame.”…
Red Barber: “Marvin Miller, along with Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, is one of the two or three most important men in baseball history.”
Bill James: “If baseball ever buys itself a mountain and starts carving faces in it, one of the first men to go up is sure to be Marvin Miller.”
Studs Terkel: “Marvin Miller, I suspect, is the most effective union organizer since John L. Lewis.”
Arthur Ashe: “Marvin Miller has done more for the welfare of black athletes than anyone else.”
Baseball’s Error: No Marvin Miller in the Hall of Fame, Peter Dreier, HuffPost (2011)
Forget steroids. Forget Frank McCourt’s mismanagement of the Dodgers. The biggest scandal in baseball at the moment is the Baseball Hall of Fame’s failure — for the fourth time — to induct Marvin Miller, who freed players from indentured servitude. The 94-year-old Miller, who directed the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) from 1963 to 1983, should be standing on the dais at Cooperstown on Sunday, when the Hall of Fame honors its new inductees.
“Also, I would like to thank somebody that definitely has had an impact on myself and my family and many ballplayers sitting in this audience today and that was Marvin Miller. I came into the game when I broke into the major leagues, and the minimum salary was $7,000, and I had to go home in the winter time and get a job. And the first year that I was in the big leagues, the job I had was at a service station pumping gas from 3:00 to 9:00pm and closing the service station so Ruth and I could live through the winter until baseball season started. She worked in a bookstore at the college. And because of Marvin’s efforts and the people in baseball, we brought that level up to where the players weren’t put in that situation. Marvin, I appreciate the job that you have done and the impact that it’s had on my family. Thank you.”
Marvin Miller Asks Out of Hall of Fame Ballot “Farce”
“Paradoxically, I’m writing to thank you and your associates for your part in nominating me for Hall of Fame consideration, and, at the same time, to ask that you not do this again,” Miller said in a letter sent to the Baseball Writers Association of America, which has only partial input on this particular election. “The anti-union bias of the powers who control the Hall has consistently prevented recognition of the historic significance of the changes to baseball brought about by collective bargaining.
“As former executive director [retired since 1983] of the players’ union that negotiated these changes, I find myself unwilling to contemplate one more rigged Veterans Committee whose members are handpicked to reach a particular outcome while offering a pretense of a democratic vote. It is an insult to baseball fans, historians, sports writers and especially to those baseball players who sacrificed and brought the game into the 21st century. At the age of 91 I can do without a farce.”
Marvin Miller on Youtube
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