The shame of Marvin Miller

The 2010 Hall of Fame picks for managers, umpires and executives were announced today, and while Whitey Herzog got the call (I told you so), Marvin Miller did not. The retired Major League Baseball Players Association executive director is 92 now and has come close a few times in the past decade, but never gets quite enough votes from the Veterans Committee for induction. He received seven votes this year from the 12-person committee, two shy of what he needed. Miller had the same number of votes as Jacob Ruppert, who can be remembered for employing Babe Ruth, and one less than a former Detroit Tigers executive named John Fetzer. Who exactly is John Fetzer?

In another few years, Miller could join Dom DiMaggio and Buck O’Neil, other baseball greats overlooked by Cooperstown in their lifetimes. Such an outcome would be a travesty.

Much has been written about Miller elsewhere, so I’ll simply repeat what I read today on ESPN.com. In his sixteen years heading baseball’s labor board, starting in 1966 when the minimum salary was $6,000 a year, Miller introduced collective bargaining, did away with the Reserve Clause and helped players win the right to free agency. Coming from a labor organizing background, not an athletic one, Miller probably did more to ensure the welfare of athletes than any other person. I’ve written before that I don’t think the end of the Reserve Clause is necessarily a good thing for baseball’s mid-level teams. I’m also not predisposed to electing baseball labor executives. Donald Fehr will never be in any Hall of Fame that I champion. All the same, I have to respect Miller’s contributions to the game and having visited Cooperstown once as a kid, isn’t that what the place is all about?

With all this said, it doesn’t look good for Miller. As I’ve written before, the Veterans Committee is notoriously conservative, preferring establishment-friendly candidates. And while what Miller did was great for players, it wreaked absolute havoc for owners, introducing never before things like player’s strikes and million dollar contracts to baseball. Just as Walter O’Malley reputedly fined Brooklyn Dodgers employees a dollar for mentioning Branch Rickey’s name after he left the team, what’s being done to Miller right now can be deemed payback, pure and simple.

Committee member and Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver put it well, to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com.

“I agree with the process, but I don’t agree with the result regarding Marvin,” said Seaver, who voted for Miller. “I think we probably have to have a couple more players [on the panel] to have a balance in that meeting. That’s the thing I’m going to suggest. This is not about your feeling on Marvin Miller. This is about the history of the game of baseball. It’s a no-brainer for me.”

It should be for everyone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.