While Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson were the most transformative figures in baseball during the first half of 20th century, Marvin Miller, a labor economist who never had an at-bat in the Major Leagues, ranks as perhaps the most influential figure during the game's past 50 years.
Beginning in 1966, Miller led the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) for a quarter century. A native New Yorker, he spent his life as a labor negotiator, first at the National Labor Relations Board and later with the auto workers' and the steelworkers' unions.
In 1968, Miller negotiated baseball's first collective bargaining agreement with the team owners that increased the minimum salary from $6,000 to $10,000. In 1970, he pushed for arbitration of player salaries. Prior to that, disputes went to the Commissioner.
After an independent arbitrator ruled that Charlie Finley failed to make a payment stipulated in Catfish Hunter's contract with the Oakland A's, the 1974 AL Cy Young Award was able to sign with another team. The Yankees offered him a 5-year, $3.5 million deal in 1975. During the years Miller led the union, the average annual baseball salaries skyrocketed. Just this week, David Wright of the Mets became the newest member of the "$100 Million Club," and the average player salary is now more than $3 million annually. Players today owe Marvin Miller a debt of gratitude.