Marvin Miller never played the game, but he may have had more influence on baseball
than anyone else in this half of the century. Hired by the players in 1966, he brought
a wealth of experience garnered in the tough steelworkers' union to bear on baseball
labor relations, and his knowledge, organizational ability, and resolve completely
overmatched the owners and their representatives, particularly Commissioners Bowie
Kuhn and Spike Eckert. In a time of baseball prosperity which saw manifold increase
in the value of franchises, his tough tactics finally got the players not only a
"bigger piece of the pie" but also greater, if grudging, respect for their wishes
in regard to trades and other matters.
Miller made himself unpopular with fans
as well as owners by leading two strikes, at the beginning of 1972 and in the middle
of 1981. But he always compromised with the owners in some way; the great progress
he made came over the course of five contract negotiations and 18 seasons. Retiring
in 1984, he had achieved more than could have been imagined when he took office:
an end to the reserve clause, with free movement from team to team through free agency,
resulting in a hundredfold increase in the highest salaries; arbitration in labor
disputes; the right for veteran players to veto trades; a vastly improved pension
plan funded largely through percentages of television revenue; and, first, recognition
of the players' union, the right to bargain collectively, and the use of agents to
negotiate individual contracts. He may be reviled for having made baseball a business,
but it had been since 1876; he made the business pay off for the 600-odd players
active each year instead of just their 26 bosses.
FROM THE BASEBALL CHRONOLOGY
»March 5, 1966: Player representatives elect Marvin Miller, assistant to the president of the United Steelworkers, as executive director of the ML Players' Association.
»March 30, 1972: Marvin Miller, executive director of the Players' Association, completes his canvass of players on the strike issue: 663 vote in favor of a strike, 10 against, and there are two abstentions.
»June 12, 1981: At 12:30 A.M., after meeting with the owners for most of the previous day, players' union chief Marvin Miller announces, "We have accomplished nothing. The strike is on," thus beginning the longest labor action to date in American sports history. By the time the season resumes on August 10th, 706 games (38 percent of the ML schedule) will have been canceled.
»December 6, 1982:
Kenneth Moffett, who helped mediate the 1981 baseball strike settlement, is named to succeed Marvin Miller as executive director of the ML Baseball Players' Association.
»November 14, 2001:
After Marvin Miller, former head of the players union, calls on Bud Selig to resign because of a conflict of interest with the Twins contraction and his ownership, the Commissioner reacts angrily. "St. Louis is closer to Minneapolis than Milwaukee is," misstates Selig in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Are the Red Sox going to benefit if Montreal is contracted? No. I don't think the Brewers will gain either. Its so outrageous and not worthy of comment," he comments.