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Baseball Hall of Fame is incomplete without Curt Flood and Marvin Miller

"I guess a week went by before you say to yourself, this is not a joke, this is serious. You no longer work here. And I guess about a week and I talked to Alan Zerman, who was my attorney then in St. Louis. He said Curt, you know baseball has been doing this to men for 200 years and you are just part of the machinery and there is very little you can do about it. You can challenge this if you want to and it started to germinate then that something illegal had been done to me.

"Something almost inhumane had been done to me. It kind of snowballed from there."

Curt Flood never did report to Philadelphia and filed a lawsuit against Major League Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn in January 1970 contending that Major League Baseball had committed an antitrust violation. Flood made $90,000 in 1969 and gave up a $100,000 deal to play for the Phillies in 1970. Instead Flood became immersed in learning about the Sherman Antitrust Act and baseball's history with the legal system. Marvin Miller and the Major League Baseball Players Association picked up Flood's legal bills.

"I learned a lot about the law system," Flood said. "And how it operates. I guess not playing that one year, it is necessary to be damaged in that one year and that would have done that. As I thought about it later on, I wished I had not played that one year in 1971 (with the Washington Senators) and the only thing that made me do it was (manager) Ted Williams, I love him. He was going to manage in Washington and he called me. I was in Denmark and he called up and said can I come up and see you. I thought he was down in the lobby. He said no I am in Washington. He said I will meet you halfway. So him (Senators owner Robert Short), they were both on the phone together and he said, no, no, I am not in the lobby. First of all, Robert Short said I got some guys on this team, I don't know if they can play baseball or not but I know you can and I will send you a contract, you sign it and you fill it in. Hohohoho, now you are talking.

"I said Mr. Short, you know the situation, you know the problems we are having with the reserve clause, all this thing is being litigated now in New York. He said they talked to Arthur Goldberg who then was my attorney, Justice Goldberg said that whatever decision the Supreme Court had made it, it already decided and there is nothing you can do short of jumping off a building, unquote, that would change their mind. So I did, I called Justice Goldberg and Marvin Miller and they said if you want to play again, I don't think there is anything you can do to hurt your case.

"How many times can you turn down $150,000 a year?

"Once there may I tell you.

"So they gave me the opportunity to play again and I wasn't going to turn that down. I'm a nice guy; I think I deserved to play for the Senators."

But Flood was busy litigating in 1970 and the baseball inactivity took its toll on the then 33-year old Flood in 1971. He retired after just 13 games with Washington.

"Seventy was like a long winter. You were always expect that at any moment you were going to go back to (the St. Louis Cardinals spring training site) St. Petersburg (Florida) and start what you really do for a living. After a while all of this kind of settles in and your mind accepts that you are no longer a baseball player," he recalled. "But I spent most of 1970 in Denmark, in Copenhagen, in a little place called Vivek where these wonderful nice Danish people would say what do you do for a living? I'm a baseball player. They would say no no no what do you do? I’m a baseball player.

"How do you feed your family?' he laughed.”They know so little about baseball that you could travel in circles where you could have complete anonymity which delighted me. So, it was not easy.

"It was getting over, cold turkey, something you have done every year for almost 15 years. It wasn't easy. 1970 was not an easy year."

Ultimately the Supreme Court of the United States ruled against Flood and his challenge of Baseball's reserve clause. Baseball had won again in the Supreme Court. In 1922, the National and the American Leagues got a favorable ruling in a lawsuit filed by the owners of the Baltimore team in the Federal League which provided the leagues with protection from the country's antitrust laws.

"I was flabbergasted because I am an American and I thought like an American and I thought that everyone could see that baseball players were getting the short end of a very short stick," Flood said more than two decades after the decision.

"However I was trying to explain this to men who would give their first born child to wear this uniform for a minute. Just let me touch it, you know, for me to tell them in this culture look at you how you too would have loved to have worn that uniform for me to say there is something wrong in baseball is like defiling the flag.

"The Supreme Court, I guess they felt the same way that being a baseball player is the best of all worlds and I ought to sit down someplace and shut up. The Supreme Court did not say that, they said they were going to leave this decision to someone else."

That someone else would be an arbitrator named Peter Seitz who ruled against baseball's reserve clause in 1975 after two pitchers, Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally, played without contracts that season. Both became free agents following the 1975 season and were free to pursue contracts with other teams in 1976.

"I was disappointed (in the Supreme Court decision), I really was," Flood said. "When you look at the issue and the issue is this. Should a man be able to work wherever he wants to? Everyone is shaking their heads yes except if you are a baseball player. If you are a baseball player you have all those fans there who love you. You ought to stay in St. Louis until the owner wants to trade you.

"So I was caught up in the fact that this is America and this is probably the greatest country in the world and you can work in quotes any place you want to with the exception at that time in baseball. Now it's come around (early 1990s) where players are starting to make a fair share of the revenue being made in baseball and that delights me. The press seems to think I had a little to do with it and that pleases me."

Six year minor league players can today opted out of major league organizations and seek a chance elsewhere. Six year major league players can become free agents. Flood was the first player to challenge the reserve clause and before his death in 1997 he talked about whether players like him and Jim Bouton (whose book Ball Four made him the bane of baseball and Commissioner Bowie Kuhn's existence) were still lepers in the baseball community.

"No, no no. Well, you see there is a whole new ownership now but they still feel the pinch of the first and 15th (paydays) that may resent me a little. Many of the things I learned in first few days, when you said what was the first week like, in the first week I learned this," Flood explained. "That you will never be a manager (there was no African-American managers in Major League Baseball's modern history through 1969), you will never be in the Hall of Fame and you probably never play baseball again. There are three important points you have to know if you go through with this lawsuit against baseball and now in retrospect those things have never happened. And for me to say that is the reason why would be to get into the heads of ownership which I cannot do."

Flood did say back in the 1990s he was welcomed back to St. Louis. ”One of my teammates (Dal Maxvill) is the General Manager, one of my teammates (Joe Torre) is the manager and many of my greatest friends in the world that I made over 13 years that I was in St. Louis are in some position with the Cardinals there. Joe Cunningham is still with the Cardinals, Ted Savage is still with the Cardinals so of course I am welcomed there," he said.

Curt Flood was never really embraced by baseball. He was hired by another Bowie Kuhn enemy, Oakland A's owner Charles Finley, to work on Athletics radio in 1978 and was the Commissioner of the short-lived Senior Professional Baseball Association, an entity that lasted two years. Flood became involved with the United Baseball League, an idea that never got beyond the let's do it stage after Rupert Murdoch's FOX Sports merged with Liberty Media. Murdoch had a deal with Major League Baseball at the time.



 
Comments (2)
2 Wednesday, 27 July 2011 18:50
Emil Ferzola
That Curt Flood said he refused to be sold as a slave is so true in todays econmic climate. Now that we are all slaves to corporate America, we, who belong to the most over worked nation in the world. We, who are told that we live in freedom, but only the poor get the death penalty. We, the many who are ruled by the few. God Bless Curt and his family, lending that voice to those of us who can barely be heard.
1 Friday, 22 July 2011 14:27
Shelly Flood
They both belong in the Hall of Fame...the History is not being told accurately until they are inducted!!

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