The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

November 27, 2012

Former baseball union head Miller dead at 95

(Continued)

Today the biggest stars earn up to $32 million a season, the average salary is more than $3 million and the major league minimum is $480,000

Baseball salaries increased by nearly 500 percent under Miller's leadership, more than three times the rate at which manufacturing workers' wages rose.

Yet baseball's Hall of Fame repeatedly refused to vote him in.

"I and the union of players have received far more support, publicity, and appreciation from countless fans, former players, writers, scholars, experts in labor management relations, than if the Hall had not embarked on its futile and fraudulent attempt to rewrite history," Miller said after falling one vote shy in December 2010. "It is an amusing anomaly that the Hall of Fame has made me famous by keeping me out."

Miller's legacy — free agency — represented the most significant off-the-field change in the game's history. He viewed the reserve clause that bound a player to the team holding his contract as little more than 20th century slavery.

"I had seen some documents in my life, but none like that," Miller said in 1966 after reading a Uniform Player's Contract.

He decided the reserve clause had to be tested. It was, when outfielder Curt Flood, traded by St. Louis, refused to report to Philadelphia in 1969.

Three years later, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the validity of the reserve clause by a 5-3 vote, keeping intact baseball's antitrust exemption.

Still, the die was cast when Justice Harry Blackmun, in his majority opinion, wrote that baseball's exemption from ordinary law was an "aberration" that had survived since the court ruled for the game in 1922. The reserve clause would not survive its next test.

In 1975, Los Angeles pitcher Andy Messersmith and Montreal pitcher Dave McNally, with Miller orchestrating the attack, did not sign contracts and their teams invoked baseball's so-called renewal clause. That gave the team the right to renew a player's contract without his approval.

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