Marvin Miller – enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame
Five times between 2003 and 2010 the Hall of Fame`s Veterans Committee had an opportunity to correct what has been a miscarriage of justice, all five times the Veterans Committee failed to do what was right, elect Marvin Miller as one of the most important builders in MLB history.
"His Hall of Fame speech would have been something special, something magical," longtime agent Tom Reich was saying Tuesday, the day Marvin Miller passed away at age 95 in an ESPN report.
"I'm sure he would have had something very powerful to say about upholding the standards of propriety he fought so hard to uphold. But his greatest satisfaction of all would have been seeing, all these years later, how the sport was flourishing like never before."
In 2007 after receiving only 3 of 12 votes, Miller told The New York Times: “You really could have done this in advance,” he told The Associated Press. “I think it was rigged,” not to keep him out but to elect others with pro-management pedigrees. That year, those others were Bowie Kuhn, the nemesis he frequently outmaneuvered; Walter O’Malley, the Brooklyn Dodgers owner who relocated his team to Los Angeles; and Barney Dreyfuss, a long-ago Pittsburgh Pirates owner.
“Bowie Kuhn was a negative factor for baseball,” Miller, who was 90 at the time of his third rejection in 2007, told The New York Times. “Without any question, if he hadn’t existed, we would have had
to invent him.”
Bowie Kuhn being in the Hall of Fame, the same Bowie Kuhn who battled Miller during 14 of the 15
years Kuhn served as MLB commissioner (1969 to 1984), Kuhn and not Miller in the Hall of Fame – suggests the Hall of Fame voting process is anything but honorable. Kuhn was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008, after having been elected by the Veterans Committee nine months after his death.
In 1968 (Kuhn was MLB’s general counsel at the time, negotiated the CBA with Miller on behalf of MLB), Miller led a committee of players that negotiated the first collective bargaining agreement in the history of professional sports. The agreement raised the minimum salary in baseball from $6,000 – the level at which it had been stuck for two decades – to $10,000 and set the tone for future advances.
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.
Miller and Kuhn negotiated head-to-head against each other five times; Miller defeated Kuhn all five times.
In 2010 Miller fell one vote short of receiving baseball’s greatest honor. Miller suggested it was more of an attempt to keep anyone linked to the Major League Baseball Players Association out of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“You can leave individuals out, but you can’t leave out an organization,” he said. “You can’t leave out the impact the union has had. You can’t be anything but fraudulent if you pretend that you are the archivist and recorder of the history of an institution like Major League Baseball and leave the union out of it.” He added, “I have more fame than I would have had in the Hall of Fame.”
The Veterans Committee which meets at Baseball’s Winter Meetings includes current Hall of Fame members, baseball executives and media members. The numbers vary each year (the 2012 Hall of Fame includes 16 members), appearing on 75 percent of the ballots is needed for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The former baseball players (all current Hall of Fame members) owe the millions they were paid to Marvin Miller and what he accomplished for baseball players.
"Marvin Miller took on the establishment and whipped them," crowed Reggie Jackson, one of the many players to benefit immensely from Miller's stewardship. Miller, though, had a more tempered view of his success: "It's not difficult to make strides," he once said, "in an industry a hundred years behind in labor relations."
In 2009 after falling two votes short of being elected to the Hall of Fame Miller told ESPN: "I'm kind of amused by it.
"I asked not be included on any ballots and gave them notice in writing, and they got their backs up
and said, 'Nobody can tell us what to do.' It was a reasonable request in light of the circumstances. Why would they keep putting me on a list and, at the same time, rigging the election so I can't be elected?"
There remains wide-spread support for Miller’s election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Former MLB commissioner Fay Vincent told ESPN in 2009 after the Veterans Committee failed to honor Miller:
"That's like blaming Thomas Edison for putting the candle industry out of business," Vincent said.
"It's preposterous that Marvin Miller isn't in the Hall of Fame," Vincent said. "It's an embarrassment. Some of it is bitterness against Marvin for having taken baseball to its knees over the years, and some of the people who are negative about him are just being small-minded. I don't think a fair-minded person can have any question.
"Marvin Miller brought players out of indentured servitude. They were basically slaves. How can you argue that it was anything other than a great thing? It meant that baseball became part of the modern world."
"The failure to acknowledge Miller," baseball statistician guru Bill James once told SI, "is a sort of symbolic holding on to the past, in the worst sense -- holding on to grudges, refusing to forget, refusing to move on."
Marvin Miller left an indelible mark on Major League Baseball, a positive one. There are those who “might” suggest Miller’s impact was negative given the average baseball salary was $19,000 when Miller joined the MLBPA in 1966 and now stands at $3.44 million, but anyone who believes Miller shouldn’t be in the Baseball Hall of Fame because baseball players are paid a great deal of money doesn’t realize or understand how baseball owners have benefited from the growth of the game, and Miller legacy is tied to that growth.
Shortly before his death Tuesday Miller offered this: "When I began . . . there were 20 major league franchises and they had a combined revenue of $50 million for the whole year. Last year, revenues exceeded $6 billion. That's the industry we've ruined with higher salaries."
Time for everyone associated with Major League Baseball and the Hal of Fame to do what is right, honor Marvin Miller as one of the definitive builders in Major League Baseball history with enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom