Opening day for Major League Baseball always puts a smile on my face. This is the day that many of us treat as the actual beginning of spring. While snow can always appear, you know that warmer days are ahead. Yet, this is also a day when I think about a tragic injustice that is associated with Major League Baseball: the fact that both Curt Flood and Marvin Miller have not been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Curt Flood, who served with distinction as an outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, was the player who was willing to risk it all in order to legally challenge baseball’s “reserved clause,” which held players in the equivalent of indentured servitude to their teams.
Flood’s case went to the U.S. Supreme Court where he lost in one of the strangest decisions in court history. Yet the stand that he took and the terrible stain that this placed on Major League Baseball cracked open a door that had been locked during the 20th century. It was the Major League Baseball Players Association led by the iconic Marvin Miller that was ultimately able to break down the door and introduce “free agency,” the system through which the players were finally able to receive respectable compensation for all that they put into the game. Miller led in the building of the Player’s Association and the transformation of baseball.
Denied their place
Despite these major contributions, the candidacies of both of these now deceased individuals has been shot down when their names were submitted for consideration in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The only rationale for denying them their place in that roster of stars appears to have been that they chose to fight the system rather than roll over. The Hall of Fame is supposed to acknowledge those who have made substantial contributions to baseball. If that is the case, how can such individuals be denied their place?
Regardless of the rhetoric, the only way that this injustice will be overturned is when sports fans let their voices be heard, and heard loudly Baseball fans in particular need to ensure that the owners of baseball franchises and the sports media as well understand that we–the fans–know something about what has made baseball what it is today. Courage and defiance are two of those factors. Nothing could better characterize Curt Flood and Marvin Miller.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a racial justice, labor and global justice writer and activist.