November 27, 2012

RIP: Marvin Miller (1917-2012)

Marvin Miller, one of the most important figures in baseball history, has died. He was 95.

That Miller was not elected to the Hall of Fame during his lifetime is a stain upon the national game that cannot be removed.

Richard Goldstein, New York Times:
When Mr. Miller was named executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association in 1966, club owners ruled much as they had since the 19th century. The reserve clause bound players to their teams for as long as the owners wanted them, leaving them with little bargaining power. Come contract time, a player could expect an ultimatum but not much more. The minimum salary was $6,000 and had barely budged for two decades. The average salary was $19,000. The pension plan was feeble, and player grievances could be heard only by the commissioner, who worked for the owners.

By the time Mr. Miller retired at the end of 1982, he had secured his place on baseball’s Mount Rushmore by forging one of the strongest unions in America, creating a model for those in basketball, football and hockey. ...

"There's been a concerted attempt to downplay the union," Mr. Miller told The New York Times, referring to the Hall, when he narrowly missed out on election in December 2010, the fifth time he had been on the ballot. "It's been about trying to rewrite history rather than record it. They decided a long time ago that they would downgrade any impact the union has had. And part of that plan was to keep me out of it."
Bill Madden, New York Daily News:
A native of Brooklyn who grew up a staunch Dodger fan, Miller had had a decorated record as a trade unionist – as a labor negotiator for the International Association of Machinists, the United Auto Workers and as staff economist for the United Steelworkers - when a group of major league players, Jim Bunning, Robin Roberts and Harvey Kuenn, approached him in early 1966 about becoming executive director of their newly-formed players union. At the time, they told him, as an appeasement to the vast majority of conservative players, they were prepared to offer the job of general counsel of the union to former vice president Richard Nixon – a dealbreaker for Miller, an avowed liberal Democrat, who informed them he could not work with Nixon.

In his 1991 memoir, "A Whole Different Ball Game" Miller recalled going home to his wife, Terry, and saying: "I blew the job." But a few days later, Roberts called him back and urged him to re-consider taking the executive director's job - with the agreement that he could name his own general counsel. Miller accepted, named Dick Moss (who later became a prominent agent) as his general counsel and then quickly set about changing the entire structure of baseball.
As Miller put it in A Whole Different Ball Game:
I loved baseball, and I loved a good fight, and, in my mind, ballplayers were among the most exploited workers in America.
Other obits: USAToday (Jim Bouton has some excellent comments),, AP.


laura k said...

Thank you, Marvin Miller. You gave us so much!

I won the Coolest Mail of the Year award by receiving a letter (paper mail) from Marvin Miller. I wrote to him after reading his book, during the baseball strike. And he typed a letter in reply.

Anyone who is interested in baseball history should read his book, A Whole Different Ball Game.

laura k said...

Also, I think to truly understand MLB's labour situation, you have to read Miller's book.

laura k said...

Dave Zirin on Miller:

SoSock said...

I'll be keeping an eye out for that book for sure