I concur with Fay Vincent, the former commissioner of MLB. It's long over due as he missed out by one vote that excluded him with this honor prior to his passing.
Miller Earned Respect as He Stood for Players’ Rights
By FAY VINCENT
Published: November 27, 2012
Marvin Miller called me about six weeks ago to say goodbye. He told me he had terminal liver cancer and wanted his close friends to know. He did not want us to view the news as tragic. He was 95, he said, and the last two years had been difficult. That call was as remarkable as Marvin was.
He was, in my opinion and that of most baseball savants, the most important figure in baseball in the last 40 years, yet many fans may not recognize his name. His death on Tuesday should give rise to some serious feelings of regret by those who failed to elect this good man, the former head of the players union, to membership in the Baseball Hall of Fame. More than anyone else, he transformed baseball.
Yet the failure of the Hall of Fame to recognize the enormous contribution Marvin Miller made to our great game cannot detract from the facts. The shame of his rejection should greatly embarrass those who voted to exclude him.
When he came on the scene at the players union in 1966, he found a group of ballplayers with no sense of how to achieve the kind of collective benefits that unions in this country had been seeking and realizing for their members for years. Miller had been a high official at the United Steelworkers union, and he brought to his baseball constituency the intense convictions of a dedicated trade unionist. He was soft-spoken and almost gentle, but his analytical skills were sharp. Before his arrival, the players were without experienced professional direction. Some players wanted the benefits of collective action but demanded Miller promise he would never call for a strike. Indeed, Phillies pitcher Robin Roberts claimed Miller had assured him and his colleagues of this. Miller, many times and firmly, denied any such promise.
As he took charge of the union, Miller was shocked to find how poorly the players were being treated by the owners. In an oral history interview he did that is — some irony here — at the Hall of Fame, he explained how he had to persuade players to stand with him in asking for substantially improved terms in their collective bargaining agreements. Along the way there were bitter strikes in 1972 and 1981 before the union was able to achieve the set of remarkable benefits that currently accrue to all major league baseball players. Today, the player pension and health benefits are so good and so well financed, the union is in many ways limited by law from seeking greater funding.
Miller and his successors, Donald Fehr and Michael Weiner, created a union that stands as a model. Their union is brilliantly led, honestly managed and extremely successful. The average member today earns more than $3 million per year. In many ways, this union is in control of baseball. And baseball is booming. It is not possible to ignore Miller’s achievements.
Awash in cash, however, some players today may forget how much Miller did for them. While much was achieved through collective bargaining, his singular and most brilliant move was in the legal arena. With his attack on the so-called reserve clause, which bound players permanently to the team with which they originally signed a contract, Miller secured for his players the right to become free agents. It is the free agency victory that has transformed baseball and made the players so wealthy. Miller realized the players had to be free to sell their services to the high bidder and — after being rebuffed by the Supreme Court in the Flood v. Kuhn case — he persuaded an arbitrator to rule the reserve clause was limited in duration. Thus, a player who did not renew his contract would be free to sign with another team after one year. It is that ruling that set the players free to seek and receive enormous free agency contracts.
Miller, who was not a lawyer, was a superb tactician in legal matters. In his oral history interview, he also confirmed that the strategy of framing his battles with owners in moral terms was his idea. He portrayed the players as poor working-class good guys seeking only to be treated fairly while castigating the wealthy owners as evil and selfish moguls. It worked, and the public sided with the players.
Though we disagreed on some issues, especially when I argued collective bargaining had run its course and should be replaced with a greater union recognition of responsibility for the future economic development of the game, I respected and admired Miller for his dedication and brilliance.
I regret deeply he did not live to accept the honor of election to the Hall of Fame. I can only hope that error is soon corrected. Until it is, the Hall is diminished.