Marvin Miller, who led the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) from its inception in 1966 to 1982, passed away today after a short battle with liver cancer. He was 95.
Prior to accepting the position of Executive Director of the MLBPA, Miller had been the chief economist for the United Steelworkers of America.
Miller succeeded in getting MLB owners to agree to salary arbitration. It was through this process, that Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally were granted free agency thereby ending the reserve clause which effectively bound a player to his team for life until said team traded, sold or released him.
But above all, Miller organized the players themselves who undertook brief work stoppages in 1972 and during spring training of the 1980 season before the 50-day strike during the 1981 season. The MLB owners intended to destroy free agency and with it the MLBPA. They failed miserably. It could very well be why Miller isn’t in the Hall of Fame. The Veterans Committee has denied him entry on several occasions. It will be interesting to see how they vote when he is on the ballot again in 2014 given the posthumous induction of Ron Santo earlier this year.
Now some will argue that Miller’s efforts turned baseball from a sport into a business. But baseball always has and always will be a business even if it isn’t subject to anti-trust laws. All Miller did was help players get a bigger piece of the pie they helped bake and in the process helped make the pie much bigger thus making the owners a whole lot richer as well.
With Miller’s passing, I am planning to re-read his 1991 autobiography A Whole Different Ballgame (co-written with Allen Barra). I would highly recommend this book. While Miller vastly underestimates President Reagan, it is nevertheless a compelling memoir of a man who led a most interesting life.