Marvin Miller, Led Baseball Players to Free Agency

Owners Keep Giant of National Pasttime Out of Hall of Fame

Staunch Unionist: Broadcaster Red Barber called union leader Marvin Miller one of the three most important figures in baseball history, alongside Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson.
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Staunch Unionist: Broadcaster Red Barber called union leader Marvin Miller one of the three most important figures in baseball history, alongside Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson.

By Peter Dreier and Kelly Candaele

Published December 04, 2012.
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The baseball establishment has five times rejected Marvin Miller, who freed players from indentured servitude, from its Hall of Fame.

In a 2008 interview, he said, “After I’m dead, they can induct me and put an asterisk on my plaque, with a footnote: ‘But let’s not forget he was Jewish.’”

It is still questionable whether Miller, in death as in life, can overcome the hostility of baseball’s owners and executives, who considered him a dangerous radical determined to destroy the game they controlled. The baseball moguls may have had nightmares just thinking about what Miller might say about them in his Hall of Fame induction speech.

Miller, who died on November 27 at 95, was never bitter about his exclusion from the Cooperstown shrine. As a staunch unionist, he knew which side he was on. He understood that the baseball owners and executives who control the Hall of Fame would rig the rules to keep him out. The baseball moguls have always viewed their teams as personal fiefdoms and are among the most ferociously anti-union crowd around.

Baseball experts overwhelmingly agree with the great Hall of Fame broadcaster Red Barber, who said that Miller was one of the three most important figures in baseball history, along with Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson. Even Bud Selig, the former Milwaukee Brewers owner who has been the baseball commissioner since 1998, has said he agrees that Miller belongs in the Hall.

Peter Seitz, the arbitrator who invalidated the reserve clause and created free agency in 1975, called Miller “the Moses who had led baseball’s children of Israel out of the land of bondage.”

So why did Miller fail to receive enough votes each time he was on the ballot?

The major reason is that the selection committees, picked by the Hall of Fame’s board of directors, have been stacked with enough owners and executives, including some with whom Miller tangled as head of the players union, to assure his exclusion.


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