Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Injustice served for Marvin Miller Monday – not chosen for the Baseball Hall of Fame

At the end of the day the deck was so stacked against Marvin Miller that his chances of being recognized with the highest honor that can be bestowed upon anyone connected with baseball – enshrinement into the hallowed halls of the Baseball Hall of Fame, eluded arguably the most important figure of the 20th century to the sports industry. Monday, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced the election of five managers and executives under revamped rules that created separate Veterans Committee ballots.

World Series winning managers Billy Southworth and Dick Williams will be joined in the Class of 2008 on July 27 at Cooperstown, N.Y., by former Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and owners Walter O'Malley and Barney Dreyfuss. While trying to take away nothing from the five men honored Monday, electing Kuhn whose legacy included losing every single labor battle he and Marvin Miller waged when Miller was head of the Major League Baseball Players Association and also saw him serve as MLB commissioner, embarrasses the much ballyhooed process baseball put in place to help facilitate the sports builders.

"Over the entire scope of the last half of the 20th century, no other individual had as much influence on the game of baseball as did Marvin Miller," Donald Fehr the current executive director of the MLBPA said in a statement. "Because he was the players' voice, and represented them vigorously, Marvin Miller was the owners' adversary. This time around, a majority of those voting were owner representatives, and results of the vote demonstrate the effect that had.

"The failure to elect Marvin Miller is an unfortunate and regrettable decision. Without question, the Hall of Fame is poorer for it."

The 12-member electorate who reviewed the Executives ballot (the group that rejected Marvin Miller) featured Hall of Famers Monte Irvin and Harmon Killebrew; former executives Bobby Brown (American League) and John Harrington (Red Sox); current executives Jerry Bell (Twins), Bill DeWitt (Cardinals), Bill Giles (Phillies), David Glass (Royals) and Andy MacPhail (Orioles); and veteran media members Paul Hagen (Philadelphia Daily News), Rick Hummel (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) and Hal McCoy (Dayton Daily News).

The 16-member electorate who reviewed the Managers/Umpires ballot featured Hall of Famers Jim Bunning, Bob Gibson, Fergie Jenkins, Al Kaline, Tom Lasorda, Phil Niekro, Tony Perez, Earl Weaver and Billy Williams; former executive Jim Frey; current executives Roland Hemond (Diamondbacks) and Bob Watson (Major League Baseball); and veteran media members Hal McCoy (Dayton Daily News), Jack O’Connell (MLB.com), Tim Kurkjian (ESPN) and Tom Verducci (Sports Illustrated).

The final Managers/Umpires ballot was developed by a Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) appointed Historical Overview Committee, comprised of 11 veteran members: Dave Van Dyck (Chicago Tribune); Bob Elliott (Toronto Sun); Rick Hummel (St. Louis Post-Dispatch); Steve Hirdt (Elias Sports Bureau); Moss Klein (Newark Star-Ledger); Bill Madden (New York Daily News); Ken Nigro, (formerly Baltimore Sun); Jack O’Connell (MLB.com); Nick Peters (Sacramento Bee); Tracy Ringolsby (Rocky Mountain News); and Mark Whicker (Orange County Register). The final Executives Ballot was developed by the executive voting committee, which considered both retired executives and active executives age 65 or older.

“Historically, the Veterans Committee has continually evolved since its inception in 1936,” said Jane Forbes Clark, chairman of the board for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. “These newest changes uphold our belief that players should have a Veterans Committee review, while also recognizing the unique analysis needed for managers, executives and umpires. We believe that these new procedures and restructured committees will allow for more open dialogue among those who vote, promoting a more intensive study of player candidacies. The Board has always maintained that the standards for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame must remain very high."

It was replaced by three separate panels -- one for players, one for managers and umpires and one for executives and pioneers, leaving Miller's fortunes largely in the hands of the same group he once fought in collective bargaining and the courts.

He did not come close, receiving only three of 12 possible votes. Under the previous system, Miller received 63 percent of the votes earlier this year while Kuhn got 17 percent. Voters Monday could name a maximum of four people on their ballot and a name had to appear on 75 percent of the ballot (nine of 12) for enshrinement into Cooperstown.

Candidates must receive 75 percent of the vote by either a 16-member first-ballot committee or 12-member second ballot committee:

Managers/Umpires: x-Billy Southworth (81.3 percent), x-Dick Williams (81.3), Doug Harvey (68.8), Whitey Herzog (68.8), Danny Murtaugh (37.5), Hank O'Day (25). Davey Johnson, Billy Martin, Gene Mauch and Cy Rigler each received fewer than three votes.

Executives/Pioneers: x-Barney Dreyfuss (83 percent), x-Bowie Kuhn (83), x-Walter O'Malley (75), Ewing Kauffman (41.7), John Fetzer (33.3), Bob Howsam (25), Marvin Miller (25). Buzzie Bavasi, John McHale and Gabe Paul each received fewer than three votes.

"I was surprised that Marvin Miller did not receive the required support given his important impact on the game," MLB commissioner Bud Selig told the Associated Press. Selig had supported Miller’s election to the Baseball Hall of Fame, an interesting and bold move for someone who first met Miller when Selig played the key role in the Seattle Pilots moving to Milwaukee after the 1969 season and now has served as MLB commissioner since 1992. Selig deserves credit for understanding the important role Marvin Miller played in the evolution (maybe it was a revolution) of baseball as a business.

The battles between Bowie Kuhn and Marvin Miller changed the sports industry. Baseball history should forever be recognized as BM (before Miller) and AM (after Miller).

Miller was first elected as the MLBPA executive director in 1966 through to1983. Kuhn served as MLB commissioner from February 4, 1969 to September 30, 1984. He served as legal counsel for Major League Baseball owners for almost 20 years prior to his election as Commissioner.

In 1970, Miller helped players negotiate the right to arbitration to resolve grievances – an achievement Miller considers the most significant of the union’s early years. The impartial dispute resolution process paved the way for nearly all of the gains the players would achieve in ensuing years.

That breakthrough led five years later to free agency when Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally played out the option year of their contracts and challenged the “reserve clause” before arbitrator Peter Seitz. The arbitrator’s decision in favor of the players was later upheld in federal court.

A compromise that allowed all players free agency after six years’ service was formalized in the next collective bargaining agreement. Miller embraced the compromise knowing that the six-year waiting period would limit the supply side of the market and drive salaries upward through competitive bidding.

In all, Miller helped players collectively negotiate enormous advances in salaries, benefits and working conditions over five collective bargaining agreements with the owners during his tenure. To reach those agreements, Miller guided the players through strikes in 1972, 1980 and 1981 as well as lockouts in 1973 and 1976.

What makes Monday’s selection of Kuhn and the outright rejection of Miller – scoreboard. Miller beat Kuhn in all five labor disputes and its well within the realm of probability it was Miller beating Kuhn that led to Kuhn being fired in 1984. Consider that fact alone – the labor leader who managed to drive Bowie Kuhn out of baseball is on the outside looking in when it comes to the Baseball Hall of Fame, while Kuhn who never beat Marvin Miller, is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. If nothing else the “scoreboard” between Kuhn and Miller is an indictment on Monday’s election process.

Miller made it clear to the Associated Press he was ready when he heard the news Monday morning that he would once again be denied his rightful spot among baseball’s key builders.

"This was done with precision. If you a set goal in mind, and I think they did, it's not very hard," Miller said his New York apartment.

"I'm so able to count votes in advance. Nothing has dimmed with age. No matter how various people involved in the Hall try to put a different gloss on it, it was done primarily to have somebody elected and secondarily to have particular people elected. I don't think this election was about me," he said.

Miller made it clear to the Associated Press the new format was designed to elect Kuhn and other management favorites.

"I think it was rigged, but not to keep me out. It was rigged to bring some these of [people] in. It's not a pretty picture," he said. "It's demeaning, the whole thing, and I don't mean just to me. It's demeaning to the Hall and demeaning to the people in it."

“They are not a jury of my peers,” Miller last week told The New York Times, “but a jury of my antagonists.”

Baseball Hall of Fame chairman Jane Forbes Clark was forced to defend the process.

"There was no concerted effort other than to have very qualified committee members evaluate very qualified candidates," she said. "There was a very open and frank discussion about each of the candidates. Everyone on that committee knows Marvin and respects what he did for the game. And that showed in the discussions."

The Baseball Hall of Fame will have an opportunity in two years to “right the wrong” and elect Miller into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Miller will be 92 by the time his fourth chance to be recognized for what he contributed to the development of baseball comes around. The New York Times Hall of Fame baseball writer Murray Chass asked Miller if maybe he’s had enough, if after experiencing the feeling of rejection three times Miller (God willing he’s alive in two years); Marvin Miller says thanks but no thanks don’t bother including my name on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot.

“The only reason I didn’t do it this time,” he said, in reference to requesting not to be on the ballot, “was because I got talked out of it. People around me thought it was an unwise move to make, especially my wife. My feeling was I shouldn’t be on the ballot, but I let myself be persuaded one more time.”

Marvin Miller remains today what he was when he made the transition from the United Steel Workers to the MLB Players Association in 1966 – a man of honor, who deserves nothing less than the undying respect of anyone who enjoys sports today. A strong argument can be made that without Marvin Miller’s contribution to the sports industry, not only would the industry not generate a half-trillion dollars annually, but today’s sports world would remain in the dark ages where athletes lived and worked in conditions that resembled slavery more than they did anything else.

Shame on those nine people who Monday demonstrated that despite the date on the calendar being December 3, 2007, they’re still living in a world we no longer thankfully are forced to experience. And shame on those entrusted with Monday’s selection process for demeaning the entire Baseball Hall of Fame voting process. If the saying is true “you’re only as good as your weakest member”, the sport of baseball managed to strikeout Monday with its decision to not honor Marvin Miller. By not electing Marvin Miller, the halls of Cooperstown are not quite as hallowed as they once were.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: MLB.com, Baseball Hall of Fame, The New York Times and The Associated Press

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