Curt Flood and His Fight for Baseball Players' Rights
by Alex Belth
Curt Flood and His Fight for Players' Rights
The Cards were in first place for most of June but then slumped badly, losing eight consecutive games at one point and finishing the first half of the year in fourth. Still, they were the best Cardinal team Flood had been on. Groat played brilliantly, surpassing his MVP season of 1960, and Flood surged too, hitting .325 in the second half after having hit .281 in the first. In Groat, he found a mentor for his offensive game: the shortstop had virtually perfected the hitting approach that Flood was learning for himself.
The Cardinals had fallen all the way down to sixth place by the time they held their annual family picnic on August 12—a somber affair this year, as Stan Musial announced that he would be retiring at the end of the season. Television trucks were set up, and the print media took notes. An awkward public speaker, Musial nevertheless gave a pep talk to his teammates, trying to get them to rally and make it to the World Series once more before he stepped aside.
Perhaps inspired by Musial, the Cardinals went on a spectacular run as the summer came to a close, winning nineteen out of twenty games. Not only did they work their way back into contention, they gave Cardinal fans their first taste of a pennant race since the team had last appeared in the World Series back in 1946. With seventeen games left in the season, the team returned home to St. Louis to start an eleven game home stand. Ten days prior, they had been seven games out and their season had looked over. Now they had revived, and thousands of fans greeted at the airport.
It was the first time Flood had experienced anything like the thrill of a major league pennant race. He was exhilarated, though at times he would break out in a cold sweat when the ball was hit to him in a tense situation. In locker rooms or on planes, Flood drew pictures to keep his mind off the pressure.
The Cardinals trailed the Dodgers by just one game when L.A. came into town for a three-game series on September 13. The score was tied at 1-1 in the ninth inning of the first game when the Dodgers scored twice off Bobby Shantz to win it, 3-1. The following day, Curt Simmons, who had been pitching well, went up against Sandy Koufax, the best pitcher in the game. Koufax tossed a gem, allowing only four hits and throwing a complete game as the Dodgers won, 4-0. L.A.’s lead was now three games, and the Cardinals desperately needed to win the finale in order to keep pace.
2006 by Alex Belth