The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

November 27, 2012

Former baseball union head Miller dead at 95

(Continued)

Miller overcame the opposition, however, due in part to his personality.

"Some of the player representatives were leery about picking a union man," Hall of Fame pitcher and former U.S. Senator Jim Bunning, a member of the screening committee that recommended Miller, remembered in a 1974 interview. "But he was very articulate ... not the cigar-chewing type some of the guys expected."

Miller recalled that owners "passed the word that if I were selected, goon squads would take over the game. They suggested racketeers and gangsters would swallow baseball. The players expected a 'dese, dem and dose' guy. The best thing I had going for me was owner propaganda."

When Miller made a tour of spring training camps in 1966, seeking support from the players, some coaches and managers who were members of the association at that time heckled him and disrupted his sessions.

"A lot of players figured that anyone the owners disliked that much couldn't be all bad," former club owner Bill Veeck said.

Miller was elected by a vote of 489-136 on April 15, 1966. Baseball had entered a new era, one in which its owners would have to bargain with a union professional.

The owners made it clear that Miller's election would bring an end to their financial contributions to the association, which had been formed in 1954 because players were disenchanted with the way their pension plan was being administered. Miller insisted he would have asked for the change in any event.

"I told them that if they wanted to make any real headway, they'd have to adopt an independent stance," Miller said.

The players' association consisted of a $5,400 kitty and battered file cabinet when Miller took the reins shortly after calling baseball's minimum salary of $7,000 "unreasonably low."

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