Marvin Miller is one of my sports heroes. In fact, Money Players is dedicated to Marvin Miller and others who "fought for freedom and fairness."
Miller's contribution to the game -- and society -- is still not properly recognized. Yesterday the Baseball Hall of Fame's Veterans Committee elected several new members, including Bowie Kuhn (commissioner), Walter O'Malley (owner), and Barney Dreyfuss (owner).
Miller's slight is more disproportional this year because his fate was put in hands of a revamped Veterans Committee, comprised of many he "regularly opposed -- and beat -- in arbitration and bargaining sessions that altered the history of the game." The result: Miller out; Kuhn, Miller's long-time foil, in.
According to Brad Snyder's book, A Well-Paid Slave:
"Without the reserve clause, Kuhn predicted, the rich teams would sign all the players, the poor teams would go out of business, and the operation of a league would be impossible. Major League Baseball would devolve into an 'exhibition business.' He based his prediction on the 'chaotic conditions [that] prevailed when there was no reserve clause' from 1871 to 1879, when players jumped to rival teams and leagues and fixed games."
Snyder added: "Player salaries constituted 59 percent of team expenses in 1879 compared with 22 percent in 1950 and 21.5 percent in 1970. [The reserve system] certainly did not help equalize competition. Four teams won 63 of the 100 pennants from 1920 to 1969."
The reserve clause, so fundamental to Kuhn's reign as MLB commissioner, was modified because of the courageous battle waged primarily by Marvin Miller and Curt Flood. The rest is history. Pretty much everything that Kuhn predicted did not occur. Free agency led to higher salaries, which was more than offset by greater revenues and ultimately higher franchise values.
In May 2007, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig apologized for the reserve clause, saying it "should have been modified decades before someone like me came into the sport. Change was long overdue, and some balance to the relationship was necessary." Added Selig: "So much of our success has been made possible because of our improved relationship with the players."
At every opportunity, Kuhn attempted to thwart the change Miller and his players fought for. Yet Kuhn gets baseball's highest recognition, which is tantamount to rewriting history. Both Marvin Miller and Curt Flood deserve to be in the HOF.