Curt Flood and His Fight for Baseball Players' Rights
by Alex Belth
Curt Flood and His Fight for Players' Rights
During his early days with the Cardinals, Rickey had been able to replace veterans with younger, less expensive players because his farm system was so deep. This trade—moving Gotay for the older Groat—defied Rickey’s philosophy. But the game had changed. Rich teams like the Cardinals and Yankees no longer possessed the prosperous farm systems that they once had. Devine, along with Johnny Keane and his coaches, reasoned that the thirty-two-year old Groat, who had been the league’s Most Valuable Player two years prior, would solidify the infield. His experience would be invaluable to Julian Javier, a young Dominican second baseman acquired from the Pirates several years earlier. Groat’s steady bat would help the team offensively, too. Rickey relented, but Devine knew his future with the team rested on how the trade turned out.
Like Devine, Groat had something to prove. The Pirates believed that his best days were behind him, so he worked out all winter to show them they were wrong. He was not a fast runner or an especially gifted fielder, but he was a heady player who knew how to position himself and maximize his talent. The Cardinals quickly accepted him into the fold; they appreciated his competitiveness. Groat got along with his teammates and frequently partnered up with Gibson for games of bridge against Boyer and White in the locker room. It was normal on most teams for the black players and white players to keep to themselves, forming cliques that effectively segregated the clubhouse, but the veteran Cardinal players fostered a sense of togetherness. That black players and white players interacted with each other in the clubhouse was a testament to the character of men like Flood, Gibson, Boyer, White, and Groat. Groups of them would eat dinner together after the game, talking baseball for hours. Their families would socialize as well. This was especially poignant in 1963, as race relations around the country became increasingly volatile. In April, Martin Luther King, Jr. led a rally in Birmingham where police set dogs on demonstrators. In June, civil rights activist Medgar Evers was murdered in Mississippi. In September, four black girls died in a church bombing in Birmingham.
2006 by Alex Belth