Marvin Miller 1917-2012


I’d like to apologize for writing about a subject that happened a little while ago, because in the blogospere that can be considered a capital crime. It’s not a normal topic and for a site dedicated to the San Diego Padres, it’s only partially relevant. Although, I felt I, and every site, should address it. If not only to raise awareness of this man’s life, but to give a little tip o’ the cap to a someone that forever changed the game in the player’s favor. I’m of course writing about Marvin Miller.

The man with the legendary mustache.

Marvin Miller was a long time economist and leader in American Unions. He held positions in the Steelworkers Union, Auto Workers, and Machinists. He was a long time fan of Baseball and wanted to become involved in the Major League Baseball Players Union, that at the time was a huge joke. During the Curt Flood debacle, Miller found an opening and a chance to get involved. He did all he could for Curt Flood, but as many already knew the case would be a loser. The almost-century old Reserve Clause was not going to be overturned and real free agency seemed like a dream. But, Miller saw the injustices and the lopsided wages between the players and owners. He wanted to help make the players at the very least on par with their owners. I mean, whom were the people coming to see? Charlie Finley? No. Miller worked tirelessly for years establishing himself as the guy who could get things done. Within his first two years as head of the MLBPA, Miller negotiated the first collective bargaining agreement, which ended up raising the minimum salary for the first time in 20 years. In 1970 he instituted arbitration, so that players who had contractual disputes with owners could go to an independent arbitrator instead of the Commissioner, who was hired by the owners in the first place. And, in 1974 Miller was able to effectively eradicate the age-old Reserve Clause. During Miller’s reign as head of the MLBPA (1966-1982) he raised the average players salary from $19,000 to $326,000. Not a small feat.

A lot of people have an issue with Marvin Miller. They claim he was just a Union guy who cared only about strengthening the belt of the worker. People assumed he cared little for the owners or even Baseball as a whole. I can see that point and even tend to agree with it in certain areas – especially that of the owners. Before Miller, the only players who ever ‘held-out’ were Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax. During Miller’s reign the players went on strike in 1972, 1980 and 1981, with two ‘lockouts’ in 1973 and 1976. This of course doesn’t sound like someone who cares too much for the sport, and cares more about his salary and those of the people he represents. However, that is what he was hired and elected to do, and he did it very well. He wasn’t there to save Baseball from greed; he was there to save the players from being left out of the owner’s greed. Marvin Miller was definitely a person that cared a lot about his own interests, and not always about the interests of the game and it’s fans. People will always have a problem with that, and you can’t really blame the fans for seeing it that way. But, Miller came in at a time when the owners were making buckets of money and the players were only seeing a Dixie Cup. He wanted fair wages for the product, and knew he had to revolutionize the way the players worked together to make it happen.

When it comes to most of our jobs: We are controlled by a boss who makes much more than we do, and usually they are controlled by another person who makes more than us and our other bosses combined. It’s the whole 99% thing. It’s not really that fair, and in a lot of the cases it’s blindingly criminal. However, this is how the system works. We all hope for more, sometimes get it, and sometimes we don’t. But, the biggest difference between our accounting job and Baseball is that no one is spending $20 to watch us be an accountant. To cheer on the calculator and endless paperwork. Baseball players were how the owners made their money, and the owners had no interest in giving the players any of that cash. Marvin Miller changed that. He saw the injustice and fixed it. We should all be so lucky to have someone like Marvin Miller on our side and in our workplace. Someone who cares that the people who provide the service should get paid for their efforts, because someone’s making money somewhere and it sure ain’t you.

It’s a bit of a travesty that Marvin Miller isn’t in the Hall of Fame. He was on the ballot twice and since the voters were primarily old owners and executives, Miller didn’t make it. He should be there, and he should be remembered as someone who not only changed the game, but also changed the way sports were consumed. He was a smart man, a compassionate man, and oh yea; he was a pretty big Baseball fan.

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