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Friday, July 11, 2008
Boston Globe Feature Article on Marvin Miller

Stan Grossfeld of the Boston Globe has an excellent feature today on Marvin Miller, the first executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association (he ran it from 1966 to 1982). Miller, 91, explains why he doesn't want to be in baseball's Hall of Fame. Here's an excerpt from Grossfeld's piece, entitled "A Reserved Clause".

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After getting overlooked in 2003 and 2007 for election and getting passed by on three Veterans Committee votes, Miller recently wrote a letter to the Baseball Writers Association of America asking them to keep his name off subsequent ballots. Even when he's dead.

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He calls the institution "a crock."

He wrote recently, "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."

In 1975, Miller defeated the reserve clause, which had bound a player to a team, and paved the way for free agency. He ushered in salary arbitration, collective bargaining, and stronger pensions. Owners hated him.

Pulitzer Prize-winning sportswriter Red Smith called him "the second most influential man in the history of baseball" behind Babe Ruth. In a poll of people who changed sports, Sports Illustrated once ranked him eighth, just ahead of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Jim Bouton, who wrote "Ball Four," calls him "the greatest figure in sports history." Hank Aaron said the Hall of Fame doors should be broken down to get Miller in. Three-time Cy Young Award winner Tom Seaver, who holds the highest plurality in Hall of Fame history, called Miller's exclusion "a national disgrace."

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Besides the owners, Miller has many enemies. There is no middle ground - people love him or hate him. Some believe he ruined baseball, recalling the strikes of 1972 and '81. And some believe Miller brought about skyrocketing ticket costs that priced out the average fan.

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Miller also denies free agency ruined the national pastime, that small-market teams such as the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates can't compete in payroll with the major television markets. "In the old days before free agency, if you weren't the Yankees, Giants, Dodgers, or Cardinals, you were [upset] . . . The Yankees won every year. Every single year from 1949-58 either the Yankees, Dodgers, or Giants were in the World Series. You think everyone enjoyed that?"

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For the rest of the piece, click here. The photo above is from the New York Times and is of Curt Flood and Miller from back in 1970.


People should pick up A Whole Different Ball Game. Of course it is Mr. Miller's perspective so I don't imagine it's 100% objective, but it is a great read!

Blogger Scrumtrulescent -- 7/11/2008 11:52 AM  

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