— NEW YORK (AP) — Marvin Miller, the soft-spoken union head who led baseball players in a series of strikes and legal battles that won free agency, revolutionized sports and made athletes multimillionaires, died Tuesday. He was 95.
Miller died at his home in Manhattan at 5:30 a.m., said his daughter Susan Miller. He had been diagnosed with liver cancer in August.
"All players — past, present and future — owe a debt of gratitude to Marvin, and his influence transcends baseball," current union head Michael Weiner said. "Marvin, without question, is largely responsible for ushering in the modern era of sports, which has resulted in tremendous benefits to players, owners and fans of all sports."
In his 16 years as executive director of the Major League Players Association, starting in 1966, Miller fought owners on many fronts, winning free agency for players in December 1975. He may best be remembered, however, as the man who made the word "strike" stand for something other than a pitched ball.
"I think he's the most important baseball figure of the last 50 years," former Commissioner Fay Vincent said. "He changed not just the sport but the business of the sport permanently, and he truly emancipated the baseball player — and in the process all professional athletes. Prior to his time, they had few rights; at the moment, they control the games."
MLB's revenue has grown from $50 million in 1967 to $7.5 billion this year. At his last public speaking engagement, a discussion at New York University School of Law in April marking the 40th anniversary of the first baseball strike, Miller maintained free agency and resulting fan interest contributed to the revenue increase.
"I never before saw such a win-win situation my life, where everybody involved in Major League Baseball, both sides of the equation, still continue to set records in terms of revenue and profits and salaries and benefits," Miller said. "You would think that it was impossible to do that. But it is possible, and it is an amazing story how under those circumstances, there can be both management and labor really winning."