November 8, 2019

I've Changed My Mind: Keep Marvin Miller Out Of The Hall Of Fame

I have not changed my opinion on Marvin Miller, of course. As Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association from 1966 to 1982, Miller is one of the most important figures in baseball history. If baseball had a Mount Rushmore for the 20th Century, Miller would unquestionably be one of the four faces.

Miller was always a man of principle, a constant and unforgiving critic of those who exploited working people and deprived working men and women of their deserved rewards.

After Miller had been passed over by the Hall the first few times, he stated he did not care. He had a point: Why accept an honour from an institution that still despised him decades after he fought and beat them? ... I still think he deserved the recognition, but I've changed my mind on his possible Hall of Fame induction. Keep him out.

On Friday, The Athletic published an essay by Joe Posnanski. Pos notes Miller is once again up for induction, on the Modern Era ballot. Posnanski says it's "unconscionable" that Miller has been so long excluded, and asks: "What is the right thing to do here?" At the end of his essay, he comes down in favour of inducting Miller ... despite quoting the labour leader's often-stated (and crystal-clear) desire to not be inducted.

Not long before Miller died in 2012, he told writer Allen Barra:
If they vote me in after I'm gone, please let everyone you know it is against my wishes and tell them if I was alive I would turn it down.
From Posnanski:
Miller offered some version of [this comment] to many writers he spoke with, including me. This wasn't anger: Miller famously and repeatedly put down his own emotions his entire life. No, his refusal to go the Hall of Fame was at the core of Marvin Miller's belief about the people who ran baseball: They would never elect him to the Hall of Fame while he was living because to do that would be to admit, in even the most subtle way, that he was right, that he and the union had forced justice and, yes, that he had won. ...

Shortly [after Miller was rejected by the Veterans Committee in 2008] he wrote letters to the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Baseball Writers Association of America asking that they never put him on the ballot again. ...

So what's left to do now? Do you elect Marvin Miller to the Hall of Fame and right a wrong that has been going for 20 years? Or do you respect his wishes and refuse to vote him in? ...

[H]ere's why I think it's not that easy: Miller is gone. Voting for him now is easy. It's safe. It's sanitized. Voting Marvin Miller in while he was alive, well, that was dangerous — because that would have given him the chance to take the stage. What do you think he would have said in Cooperstown? There is no doubt: He would have railed against the owners, stood up for the players, reminded the fans that they had always been against the players. ...

So elect him now, what happens? ... [I]t's likely there will be a somewhat antiseptic history lesson about how Marvin Miller fought to change things and how it all ended happily and how generous it is for the good people of baseball to put that stuff behind them and finally embrace the man.

That's not how Miller saw the story, not ever. And for that to happen would undoubtedly have made him sick. ...

Miller belongs in the Hall of Fame … but he belongs on his own terms. For me, in the end, I'd vote in Marvin Miller ...

At the same time, I can hear Miller's voice echoing in my head. He had an unforgettable voice. ... "I thought I had made myself clear." And he had. He always made himself clear.
Miller has been gone for seven years. He can no longer be inducted "on his own terms". As Posnanski rightly noted, if Miller is inducted, the Lords of the Realm will emit a few empty platitudes - much as they do every April 15 on We Are So Enlightened For Being Pro-Integration Day, celebrating that sun-splashed day in 1947 when baseball woke up and realized (as per their wilted propaganda) excluding blacks simply wasn't right.

Posnanski includes more Miller quotes:
The reason we spoke in 2002 — one of my favorite interviews ever, by the way — was that there were whispers about another player strike. I asked him if he was worried about the fans' horrified reaction to players making millions of dollars striking.

Spoiler alert: He was not.

"When people tell me that fans are against the players now," he began, "I say, 'Who cares?' They have never given a damn about the players. As is their right. But they didn't care when the players were getting peanuts. They didn't care when the players were pieces of property the owners could throw around. Nor was there any fan movement whatsoever when baseball, for I don't know how long, wouldn't hire non-white players, no matter their ability. ... Fans have absolutely no right to have any say in the terms and conditions of players."

Miller never softened. Ever. People kept telling him to give a little bit, to relax, look at how much the players had won, look how much money they made, look how the game had grown. He'd won the fight, they told him. He didn't buy any of it. His fight was still raging. ...

In 2002, many people who had long supported Miller — such as Bob Costas — thought him a bit of a dinosaur. The game needed balancing, how could he not see that? There was such a divide between rich teams and poor teams. ... The game needed, yes, competitive balance.

"Competitive balance, hah," Miller said. He all but spit out the phrase. "I remember when we were trying to do away with the reserve clause. I marveled at the fact that something like that could be in the players' contract. But, even more, I marveled at the fact that when I brought it up to players, they gave me a response which, in effect, said baseball couldn't survive without it. They had been brainwashed to believe that the reserve clause was for the good of the game. The words change. It used to be 'the good of the game.' Now it's 'competitive balance.' There's no difference." ...

More Miller on the fans: "Fans don't seem to understand that the largest pocketbook issue that faces them is the tax money being used for essentially free stadiums for wealthy owners. That's hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in cities where schools are crumbling and highways and bridges need repair. It amazes me. Fans don't complain about the real issues. Mostly, they don't even understand them.

"Players make what they deserve to make on the open market. That's all. And let me say this again: Fans have their rights. But they should have nothing to say on what a player earns. I liken it to an automobile company. Someone might buy six or seven Chevrolets in his life. Automobile companies ought to listen to the things he has to say about how a car looks, how it runs, how it stands up. All important things. But I don't think a car buyer has any right to have any input whatsoever on the wages and benefits of automobile employees."
In 2007, when Marvin Miller was up for election under a revamped voting format. he explained: "In the last vote, the number of management people among the voters was a certain percentage. On the new committee management is completely dominant. Aside from miracles, there's no reason to believe the vote will do anything but go down."

He was right. He received only three of the necessary nine votes.

Jim Bouton was disgusted:
[T]he 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?
In July 2008, Miller told the Boston Globe:
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.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame can do without Marvin Miller. Frankly, they don't deserve him.


allan said...

J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI were not members of the Marvin Miller Fan Club. In 1949, the FBI investigated Miller for possibly advocating "the overthrow of our constitutional form of government in the United States".
The Bureau was thorough, examining records from every job Miller ever held, including a short stint as a soda clerk in a Brooklyn Walgreens when he was 18. The FBI uncovered "considerable disloyal data", including this gem: "HE PRAISED EQUALITY OF RACES."

johngoldfine said...

I really like the sting in your last sentence--completely supported in the previous material but completely a surprise too.

Zenslinger said...

An enlightening read for me.

allan said...

FWIW, my Rushmore: Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Marvin Miller, Bill James