Executive: Marvin MillerLast year, the Today's Game Committee wasted no time in electing Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Baseball from 1998 to 2015 (although he had been the Acting Commissioner since 1992), to the Hall of Fame in his first opportunity.
Marvin Miller, the Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), known informally as the players' union, from 1966 to 1982, has been before a veterans committee seven times since 2001 and has yet to be elected to the Hall of Fame.
This discrepancy underscores the fundamental friction in the business of baseball between management, or the baseball owners, who had included Selig prior to his becoming baseball commissioner, and labor, the baseball players—and with Selig gaining election immediately while Miller, who died in 2012, has yet to be elected, it is not hard to see where the power continues to reside in Major League Baseball.
It is with the owners, who continue to see Marvin Miller as the skunk at their garden party, and through the only mechanism by which non-players can be elected to the Hall of Fame, the veterans committee, they want to keep that stink out of Cooperstown—even if the by-products of that stink, the players who benefited from the revolutionary economic changes Miller helped to enact, continue to be elected to the Hall.
To be fair, Bud Selig himself has stated publicly in 2007 that Miller belongs in the Hall of Fame, even while acknowledging that his predecessors, such as former Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, would hardly agree with his stance. Indeed, Miller was instrumental in dismantling baseball's Reserve Clause and militating for players' rights as equal partners in the business of baseball by negotiating the MLBPA's first collective bargaining agreement with team owners in 1968, which formalized owner-player relations including arbitration, and by encouraging free agency, which enabled players to offer their services to any interested team as a participant in a labor market and not simply remain the property of a team that, along with all other teams, composed a monopoly, or a trust, that dictated the fates of its employees without redress.
An executive who worked with and for the players, Marvin Miller has proved to be an anathema to Major League Baseball's oligarchy.
This is a powerful concept that typically gets glossed over during any discussion of the business of baseball, instead becoming reduced to the most apparent outcome of this concept, which is the dramatic increase in players' salaries resulting from collective bargaining; this very site, in its summary description of Miller, simply notes that "salaries skyrocketed under his tenure" without stating why that is significant. Baseball is, and always has been, an inherently conservative institution run by the owners for their enrichment.
A hidden aspect of "the national pastime" is that it is a microcosm of the socio-economic imbalance in American society that has been a constant throughout its history and remains so today—just look at the Republicans' current tax bill that will disproportionately benefit the wealthiest at the expense of everyone else.
If this is beginning to sound like a political screed, that is precisely the point: Marvin Miller challenged the prevailing politics and economics in baseball simply by representing its labor force as the head of its union, and the very word "union" has been a dirty word throughout the history of American business. Yet Miller is in a sense simply the culmination of baseball's labor-management struggle, and to understand why that is crucial enough to merit Marvin Miller's inclusion into the Baseball Hall of Fame—and why it has not happened yet despite several attempts—we need to understand the history of the Reserve Clause.
The History of the Reserve ClauseThe roots of the Reserve Clause, which in essence is part of a player contract that states that the team retains the rights to the player even after the contract expires—the player becomes the team's property in perpetuity—go all the way back to the National League owners' meeting in 1879, when Arthur Soden, owner of the Boston Braves, proposed that clubs "reserve" five players' contracts in an attempt to stunt salary growth and augment profits. By 1890, the Reserve Clause was extended to all players' contracts.
Opposition arose almost immediately, both in the form of rival leagues that offered free contracting to players, and in the form of the first players' union, the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players launched in 1885 and spearheaded by New York Giants superstar Monte Ward. Ward combined the two initiatives by forming a new league, the Players' League, in 1889, although it lasted just one season, with most players returning to the NL. As a pitcher and infielder, Ward is the only Major League player ever to win 100 games and collect 2000 hits (giving Shohei Ohtani something to aspire to), and he is a member of the Hall of Fame—although his induction did not come until 1984, which may be a harbinger of what Miller can expect.
As the Reserve Clause persevered into the 20th century, it was challenged periodically and without success. In fact, it received periodic reinforcement: In 1922, the United States Supreme Court ruled that baseball was not involved in interstate commerce and thus it was not in violation of federal antitrust laws that could challenge the legality of the Reserve Clause. The Supreme Court upheld subsequent challenges in 1953 and in 1972, reaffirming that baseball was a monopoly exempt from antitrust laws (such as the Sherman Antitrust Act, passed by Congress in 1890) in what is known as the "baseball anomaly" or the "baseball exemption."
And in case you're wondering whether in 1922 all teams were located in the same state and thus did not participate in interstate commerce, the court ruled that while the players moved between states, they were not the game, which remained local, in a majority decision written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, a former amateur baseball player, for a court presided over by Chief Justice William Howard Taft, a former baseball player at Yale University and such a baseball fan that, as President of the United States, Taft in 1910 threw out the first pitch at a Washington Senators game to start the baseball season, a tradition that remains to this day.
Opposition to the Reserve Clause ContinuesStill, challenges continued, and were opposed by team owners at every step. When baseball under Commissioner Happy Chandler instituted in 1946 a five-year ban on players who had jumped to a rival league, outfielder Danny Gardella, who had played in the Mexican League but then found himself blacklisted upon his attempt to rejoin MLB, sued MLB for $300,000. Gardella lost his case, but in 1948 the Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court's decision, largely by ruling that the advent of television and radio broadcasts of baseball games was clear proof that baseball was now involved in interstate commerce.
Moreover, in its decision the Second Circuit Court castigated the Reserve Clause, which it called "shockingly repugnant to moral principles that . . . have been basic in America . . . [since] the Thirteenth Amendment" (which abolished slavery in 1865), and likened the Reserve Clause to involuntary servitude that "results in something resembling peonage of the baseball player."
Not surprisingly, baseball owners feared the end of the baseball exemption and the Reserve Clause, with Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1949, invoking the budding Cold War hysteria by declaring "that the Reserve Clause was opposed by people with avowed Communist tendencies."
Yes, this is the same Branch Rickey who, just two years previously with the Brooklyn Dodgers, had integrated Major League Baseball by bringing Jackie Robinson onto the team and thus becoming the first African-American baseball player in the 20th century. It is a monumental event not just in the civil rights movement but in American history, and baseball has fed off its legacy ever since, with Robinson's uniform number, 42, now universally retired.
Baseball's integration is both historic and admirable, and it is a direct repudiation of both the literal slavery experienced by all African-Americans prior to the Thirteenth Amendment and the "separate but equal" segregation that followed its ratification, segregation maintained by MLB until 1947. But at the same time baseball maintained its economic slavery, which the Second Circuit Court condemned as "involuntary servitude" and "peonage of the baseball player," and as Branch Rickey the integrationist proclaimed, any opposition to the Reserve Clause that enabled that peonage was tantamount to communism.
Curt Flood Challenges the Reserve ClauseSo, while Curt Flood, a star center fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals (another team for whom Rickey had worked, by the way), could as an African-American now play baseball, he discovered like all baseball players that that freedom did not extend to their financial and economic status in baseball.
During the 1969 season, Flood had feuded with the Cardinals' front office over a $10,000 raise to his $90,000 salary. Once the season was over, Flood was curtly informed that he had been traded to the last-place Philadelphia Phillies, with Philadelphia such a hotbed of racial tensions, which were carried into the Phillies' dilapidated Shibe Park, that the player for whom he had been traded, African-American Dick Allen, wore a batting helmet even when he played the field.
Curt Flood might have lost his battle, but he helped to win the war for free agency.
Believing that he was being punished by the Cardinals for his salary demands, Flood wrote to Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, instructing him to notify all MLB teams that he would field their financial offers to play for them in 1970 while stating that he, Flood, did not consider himself to be "property"—and for an African-American, that term has deep and painful historical resonance, as Flood articulated in his letter: "I do not feel that I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes."
When Kuhn ignored Flood's demands, Flood sued Kuhn and Major League Baseball in a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1972. It was an action that Flood did not take on lightly, and for advice and consultation he turned to Marvin Miller.
Marvin Miller Enters Major League BaseballMiller had become the Executive Director of the MLBPA in 1966 following his tenure at the United Steel Workers of America, where he had been the union's principal economic adviser, assistant to its president, and its leading contract negotiator. A 1938 New York University graduate with an economics degree, Miller cut his teeth at the National War Labor Board during World War Two before working for the International Association of Machinists, the United Auto Workers, and United Steel Workers, which he joined in 1950.
In 1966, after having been encouraged by future Hall of Fame pitchers Jim Bunning and Robin Roberts, Miller canvassed MLB's spring training camps for the MLBPA's executive director position, which had been offered to the union's legal counsel, Robert Cannon. Cannon was certainly the choice of the owners—Cannon actually aspired to be baseball's next commissioner as he supported the Reserve Clause and thought that the players' pension plan was the finest in the world. Indeed, he told Congress in 1964 that, with respect to players' economic status, "we have it so good we don't know what to ask for next." Perhaps not surprisingly, Cannon declined the executive director offer, and Miller accepted it.
The MLBPA had been formed in 1953, and its first president was the Cleveland Indians' ace and future Hall of Famer Bob Feller. Although the MLBPA did get additional pension-plan funding from All-Star Game and World Series revenues, and it did negotiate a salary increase to $6000 (after asking for $7200), it was not an active force until Miller joined in 1966.
Miller's first order of business was to negotiate MLBPA's first collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with team owners, which covered the 1968 and 1969 seasons, raising the minimum salary to $10,000 and increasing expense allowances. However, its primary importance was to establish a formal player-owner bargaining structure including arbitration procedures for grievances, a foundation for the three-year CBA agreed-to in 1970 that introduced a three-member arbitration panel with a neutral, jointly-agreed-upon chairman. Miller's 1968 CBA was the first in American professional sports and set the precedent for other sports.
Despite these quick successes, Miller was pragmatic, even blunt, in his advice for Curt Flood as Flood prepared to sue Commissioner Kuhn and Major League Baseball over his trade grievance. Aware of the judicial system's historical bias toward MLB owners and their monopoly, Miller flatly told Flood that he would not win, and even if he did manage to win, he would be effectively blacklisted from baseball.
Curt Flood Versus the U.S. Supreme CourtMiller was proved correct: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Flood in a five-to-three decision, with the majority opinion written by Justice Harry Blackmun, who penned a prologue to the opinion that is such a hosanna to bygone baseball that it would make Ken Burns or George Will, let alone the granddaddy of purple sports prose Grantland Rice, blush with adoration. (Blackmun's prologue cites no fewer than 83 players going up to the mid-20th century—yet it snubs Mel Ott.)
Dissenting opinions from Justices William O. Douglas, joined by William Brennan, and Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, were considerably more clear-eyed, as Douglas agreed with Flood that the Reserve Clause unlawfully benefited owners at the players' expense, while Marshall faulted the judicial system for allowing baseball's peculiar antitrust exemption to persevere. And as a riposte to Blackmun's flowery defense of baseball history, Douglas wrote, "This is not a romantic history baseball enjoys as a business. It is a sordid history."
Furthermore, Curt Flood never played baseball after the 1969 season save for 13 games in 1971 with the Washington Senators, which lost 96 games that season. Throughout 1970, Flood was deluged with hate mail claiming that he was trying to destroy baseball while Flood's Cardinals teammate Bob Gibson estimated that Flood received four or five death threats a day. Curt Flood died, age 59, of throat cancer in 1997.
But although he might have lost the battle, Flood's courageous stance enabled a later victory in the war against the Reserve Clause, and Miller was again a key advisor. When Flood asked Miller if his lawsuit would benefit other players, he replied that it would benefit both then-current and future players.
Flood's courage and Miller's perseverence helped to reshape the course of Major League Baseball.
Marvin Miller Gets to WorkMeanwhile, Miller organized a two-week players' strike in April 1972 that enabled him to negotiate a half-million-dollar increase in pension fund payments. Although it cost the players $600,000 in aggregate lost salary—they didn't get paid for being on strike—the cost to the owners in terms of lost revenue from games not played was much bigger as Miller, a labor-union veteran who brought three decades of experience to the MLBPA, taught players, essentially young workers with no practical experience in the business world, the power of collective bargaining.
Flood's case also put challenges to the Reserve Clause, namely the option of free agency, into the players' minds, and when Miller and the MLBPA negotiated their next CBA in 1972, they might not have negotiated the end of the Reserve Clause, but they did get a concession for salary arbitration, which ultimately led to the end of the Reserve Clause.
In his book Baseball and Billions, economist Andrew Zimbalist notes that, "Today all observers recognize salary arbitration as a powerful weapon in the players' arsenal, and the owners have been trying to vitiate the arbitration system for several years." Moreover, the CBA that would take effect in 1973 also included the "10-and-5 Rule," also known as the Flood Rule, which gives a player with 10 years' MLB service, the last five of which with the same team, the right to veto any trade. "With this rule," Zimbalist writes, "some players were granted control over where they played for the first time since 1879"—when Boston Braves owner Arthur Soden first introduced the Reserve Clause.
In 1974, Oakland Athletics pitcher Catfish Hunter filed a grievance against owner Charlie Finley concerning an annuity payment stipulated in his contract that Finley did not make. A three-person arbitration panel—instituted as a result of Marvin Miller and the MLBPA's collective bargaining agreement—ruled that Finley had violated Hunter's contract, which was no longer binding on Hunter, who was free to then negotiate with another team—in essence, Hunter became a free agent. He went on to sign a multi-year contract with the Yankees.
The following year, pitchers Andy Messersmith of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Dave McNally of the Montreal Expos were both dissatisfied with their current-year contracts and, encouraged by Miller, refused to sign them although they continued to play for their respective clubs. At the end of the season, a three-person arbitration panel ruled that both pitchers had fulfilled their contractual obligations and that neither team had any further control over them.
Goodbye, Reserve Clause; Hello, Free Agency—and Owners' BacklashThis was the true birth of free agency in Major League Baseball, which for the first time gave players the right to negotiate their services with teams interested in those services. It effectively ended the Reserve Clause and eliminated the "indentured servitude" and "peonage" that the Second Circuit Court had condemned in the appeal of the Gardella case in 1948.
Under the direction and tutelage of Marvin Miller, the Major League Baseball Players' Association, representing the interests of the players without whose labor there would be no "national pastime," nor a Hall of Fame, attained parity with the team owners as it became one of the strongest unions in the United States—and altered the landscape of baseball just as surely as Babe Ruth or Jackie Robinson. Indeed, legendary sportscaster Red Barber stated as much: "Marvin Miller, along with Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, is one of the two or three most important men in baseball history."
Now for the inevitable backlash. Along with free agency came the corresponding increase in players' salaries. Following the arbitration ruling in the cases of McNally and Messersmith—which so outraged the owners that they immediately fired arbitration panel chairman Dave Seitz, who had also ruled in the Hunter case, and tried in vain to appeal Seitz's decision at two federal levels—free agency swept through baseball as by 1977, 281 players had signed multi-year contracts, and average salaries nearly tripled between 1976 and 1980; as this site describes it, "salaries skyrocketed under [Marvin Miller's] tenure" without explaining the reasons why that was so.
In truth, this is the salient feature of the death of the Reserve Clause and the rise of free agency that the great majority of baseball fans know and understand: You can make a lot of money playing baseball at the Major League level. Even the 2018 minimum salary will be $545,000 annually, but that is dwarfed, both financially and in media coverage, by the superstar salaries and the speculation about what blockbuster multi-year packages will be offered to Bryce Harper and Mike Trout when they enter the free agent market, with estimates of $40 million annually not uncommon. In fact, players' salary considerations are parsed and analyzed as closely as their playing statistics.
Like WAR or FIP, or perhaps even like ERA and slugging percentage, those are numbers that the average fan tries to grapple with in the abstract as they have meaning only in the hermetic bubble of Major League Baseball. A salary of a half-million dollars a year is something most of us can only dream of, and yet the recipient of that salary—again, the minimum salary a player can make, which at best we can equate to a minimum wage—is concrete, real, and, thanks to decades of media saturation, intimate. We know the players (at least we think we do) and how they are doing both on the field and off the field. As has been the case since baseball's inception, they are the game to us, much more so than the owners and the executives whose work off the field produces what we see on the field.
So, when a disruption occurs in baseball, our attention—even our ire—is directed at the players, who are the conduits between the "national pastime" of a children's game played at its highest level and the business of baseball. This is true whether the disruption is a strike, or a walkout, which is initiated by labor (that is, the players), or a lockout, initiated by management (i.e., the owners); all we know is that baseball has stopped—which was something that rarely happened before Marvin Miller became the Executive Director of the MLBPA.
Strikes, Disruption, and AngerIn 1981, a players' strike from June 12 to August 10 (the All-Star Game, an exhibition game with no impact on the regular season, had been played on August 9) forced the cancelation of 38 percent of regular-season games. It was the fourth work stoppage since 1972, although the first to disrupt significantly the schedule of games.
Even though it had been the players who walked out, the major share of the blame was put on the owners, who were demanding compensation for players they lost through free agency, with the players' union contending that any form of compensation would undermine free agency's value.
The two sides reached a compromise with owners receiving compensation for a "Type A," or "premium," free agent (determined by various performance criteria) while free agency was granted only to players with at least six years' MLB service, a position Miller had advocated; indeed, Miller understood that too many free agents could drive player salaries down, and that limiting the pool of available free agents—good old supply and demand—could drive up salaries. Reputedly, the negotiations were so acrimonious that Miller and owners' negotiator Ray Grebey refused to pose together for any post-settlement photographs.
But when another work stoppage, another strike, halted baseball in 1994, not only was the season fundamentally disrupted—the consequences were serious. Fittingly, the issues were serious too, and complex, but as the 1994 strike occurred after Marvin Miller had officially stepped down in 1982 as the MLBPA's executive director, with Donald Fehr eventually becoming his official replacement, we will not detail it here except to note that it is part of the legacy Marvin Miller left on Major League Baseball—and its impact provoked a fan backlash that took years to heal.
Again, the players were inevitably the very visible target of the fans' wrath, which was summarized, simply but cogently, as "the millionaires [the players] arguing with the billionaires [the owners] over money—with the fans ultimately having to pay the cost." Indeed, the 1994 strike, begun on August 12, 1994, and not suspended until April 2, 1995, forced the cancelation of the 1994 postseason including the World Series, canceled for the first time since 1904 after having been inaugurated the year before—and which had been played every year for decades despite gamblers' interference, the Great Depression, and two world wars.
The Legacy of Marvin MillerThis is the legacy that Marvin Miller has bequeathed on baseball. The casual fan knows only the "skyrocketing" salaries of baseball players, and it is true that MLB is alone among the Big Four team sports in the United States and Canada in not having a salary cap—at the core of the 1994 work stoppage—although it does have a revenue-sharing arrangement to try to enforce parity.
Would baseball have been better off without Marvin Miller? Leaving aside the presumed denials of just about every player who has played Major League baseball since the mid-1970s, another, perhaps better, question is, would baseball have pursued the same kind of objectives and goals as did Miller even if he were not on the scene?
In 1966, star Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax confronted owner Walter O'Malley with a joint salary demand: They wanted one million dollars to be split between them over the next three seasons—or else they would "retire" and go into television acting careers. (And who could forget Drysdale schooling Greg on the realities of big-league baseball on The Brady Bunch? Or Koufax serving up a gopher ball to a slugging Mister Ed?) Moreover, they wanted to be represented by a lawyer-agent during negotiations and not by the usual "stop by my office and we'll tell you what your contract will be next year" that former pitcher Jim Bouton relates vividly in his celebrated baseball chronicle Ball Four.
Ultimately, their demand went unmet although each got one-year contracts north of $100,000 for the 1966 season (over $760,000 in 2017 dollars)—having been integral to the Dodgers' world championships in 1963 and 1965, the Dodgers knew that they couldn't afford to lose either one. Granted, players had been trying to negotiate for better deals in the Reserve Clause Era for decades (remember Monte Ward, his union, and the Players' League from the 19th century?), and a demand like theirs would have been greeted by derision—or worse—from a non-superstar player. Remember Curt Flood?
But what is fascinating is the language that Koufax used in recalling the incident years later, which may have been cribbed from Marvin Miller but which sounds prescient nevertheless: "The goal was to convince [the owners] that they would have to approach us, not as indentured servants but as coequal parties to a contract, with as much dignity and bargaining power as themselves." (Emphasis added.)
Marvin Miller would have happened in some form or another, and while it is fun to play "what-if," let's deal with the reality of what-is: Marvin Miller helped to change the course of baseball, as surely as Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson did with integration. And just as Rickey and Robinson's act had larger social and political implications, so too did Miller's direction of one of the strongest unions in the United States have economic and social implications. Is that not a Hall of Fame-worthy case?
The Veterans Committees and the Control of Baseball LegacyUpon Miller's 2012 death, former Commissioner Fay Vincent remarked, "I think he's the most important baseball figure of the last fifty years. He changed not just the sport but the business of the sport permanently, and he truly emancipated the baseball player—and in the process all professional athletes. Prior to his time, they had few rights. At the moment, they control the games."
Admirable, and admiring, remarks from someone who would be considered his adversary—although his actual adversary, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, was hardly as salutary: "I began to realize we had before us an old-fashioned 19th-century trade unionist who hated management generally and the management of baseball specifically."
Bingo! Could Kuhn have summed up the attitude of the owners any more succinctly? Well, he could have called Miller a communist, as Branch Rickey had done in reference to anyone opposed to the Reserve Clause, but Kuhn's choice of "trade unionist," 19th-century or otherwise, is effectively a dog whistle of same.
This is the challenge Marvin Miller faces, and has faced for nearly two decades: The veterans committee, known this year as the Modern Baseball Committee, is weighted toward management. Yes, the committee, which has had 16 members in recent years, counts Hall of Fame members including players among its complement. But recent committee compositions have included non-player Hall of Famers, and they are typically executives. This is over and above the separate coterie of current and former executives not in the Hall of Fame, with historians and media representatives rounding out the committee.
As we noted previously, the veterans committee in the 21st century has elected just four players into the Hall, but it has elected seven executives including two MLB commissioners. Granted, the veterans committee is the only mechanism by which non-players can be elected to the Hall of Fame, while many players under consideration had appeared on a BBWAA ballot previously. (Eight of the nine players on this year's ballot spent all 15 of their eligible years on a BBWAA ballot.) So, there may be an understandable—if not justifiable—bias toward non-players.
The table below details executives elected by the veterans committee since 1982, which was the year that Marvin Miller officially stepped down from the MLBPA.
|Executives Elected by the Veterans Committee Since 1982
||Notable Baseball Office(s)
||Baseball Commissioner (1945–1951)
||Owner: Browns, Indians, White Sox
||National League co-founder
Executive: White Stockings (later Cubs)
||Executive: Orioles, Yankees
American League President
||Baseball Commissioner (1969–1984)
Legal counsel to MLB owners
||Executive: Blue Jays, Mariners, Orioles, Phillies
||Executive: Braves, Royals
||Baseball Commissioner (1998–2015)
Acting Baseball Commissioner (1992–1998)
Of the eleven men elected, three were baseball commissioners, five were team owners (this double-counts Bud Selig, who owned the Milwaukee Brewers before he became Commissioner of Baseball), and four were executives. Not counted here are any persons elected as on-the-field managers whose careers may have also included offices related to executives, such as Joe Torre, who is currently MLB's Chief Baseball Officer and a liaison to the commissioner.
Has the Baseball Hall of Fame inherited the "Reserve Clause" that Marvin Miller helped to eliminate from Major League Baseball?
The Baseball Hall of Fame enshrines players for their on-the-field accomplishments, and it enshrines executives who, as the prevailing narrative has it, had the capital and the business acumen to make the players' accomplishments possible. It has not enshrined anyone like Marvin Miller, who made manifest the fact that players, as the labor force in the enterprise, are a crucial factor in the equation that is the business of baseball—and baseball has always been a business from its inception.
This is not only incomplete. It is dishonest. It is another attempt to whitewash the history of baseball into an anodyne fable of mythical Americana, much like the attempt to suppress, if not efface, the consequences of performance-enhancing drugs by simply blaming it on the players while ignoring the context in which it occurred—which is the business of baseball. (That topic falls outside the scope of this article, but I plan to explore it in my upcoming article on the 2018 BBWAA ballot.)
By not acknowledging that the players are not just simply performers but also stakeholders in the business of baseball, the Baseball Hall of Fame is reducing them to property of the owners—returning them to 1879, when the Reserve Clause was first proposed before it went on to govern the business of baseball for nearly a century.
Hell, baseball established racial justice thirty years before it yielded to economic justice, and that was not without a fight. That economic justice is symbolized by Marvin Miller, whose greatest accomplishment may be in making players, through their union, the Major League Baseball Players' Association, understand that their human capital is a commodity they can use to negotiate with owners for the best price possible while emphasizing how to maximize that power through collective bargaining.
Baseball players understand this, even those enshrined in the Hall of Fame:
Hank Aaron: "Marvin Miller should be in the Hall of Fame if the players have to break down the doors to get him in."
Joe Morgan: "They should vote him in and then apologize for making him wait so long."
Tom Seaver: "Marvin's exclusion from the Hall of Fame is a national disgrace."
But the most cogent observation may come from a player who will never see the inside of the Baseball Hall of Fame without a ticket, Jim Bouton, whose tell-all book Ball Four was the first baseball expose to remove the whitewashing of baseball:
"Essentially, the decision for putting a union leader in the Hall of Fame was handed over to a bunch of executives and former executives. Marvin Miller kicked their butts and took power away from the baseball establishment—do you really think those people are going to vote him in? It's a joke . . . I blame the players. It's their Hall of Fame; it's their balls and bats that make the Hall what it is. Where are the public outcries from Joe Morgan or Reggie Jackson, who was a player rep? Why don't these guys see that some of their own get on these committees? That's the least they owe Marvin Miller. Do they think they became millionaires because of the owners' generosity?" (Emphasis added.)
Marvin Miller himself, speaking in 2008, summed up his chances at the hands of the veterans committee structure:
"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, sportswriters, 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 farce."
Whether Bouton's or Miller's comments may be overblown is up to the reader to decide. What is without dispute is this: It is a farce that Marvin Miller is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
More so than Ted Simmons and Alan Trammell, both of whom are overdue for the Hall of Fame, the Modern Baseball Committee must elect Marvin Miller. He helped to shape the modern baseball for which this committee is named. Not doing so perpetuates the farce.
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