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Marvin Miller

Marvin Miller

Marvin Miller

  • Born: April 14, 1917
  • The Bronx, New York City
  • Occupation: Executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association (1966 - 1982)

Marvin Julian Miller (born April 14, 1917, in The Bronx, New York City) is a former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), from 1966 to 1982. Under Miller's direction, the players' union was transformed into one of the strongest unions in the United States. In 1992, Studs Terkel said, "Marvin Miller, along with Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, is one of the two or three most important men in baseball history."

Career

Miller, a labor economist, started his work career at the National War Labor Relations Board, and then moved on to the Machinist Union and the United Auto Workers. Finally, he worked his way up the United Steelworkers union to become its leading economist and negotiator. In the spring of 1966, Miller visited Spring Training camps in an effort to get selected as executive director of the MLBPA. He closely followed the joint holdout of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. He was elected head of the MLBPA in 1966.

Miller negotiated MLBPA's first collective bargaining agreement with the team owners in 1968. That agreement increased the minimum salary from $6,000 to $10,000, the first increase in two decades. In 1970, Miller was able to get arbitration included in the collective bargaining agreement. Arbitration meant that disputes would be taken to an independent arbitrator to resolve the dispute. Previously disputes were taken to the Commissioner - hired by the owners - who generally ruled in favor of the owners. Miller considered arbitration the greatest achievement of the early years of the baseball union.

In 1974, Miller used arbitration to resolve a dispute when Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley failed to make an annuity payment as required by Catfish Hunter's contract. The arbitrator ruled that Finley had not met the terms of the contract so Hunter was free to negotiate a new contract with any team - making Hunter a free agent. When Hunter signed a 5-year, $3.5 million contract with the Yankees, the players saw the amount of money that could be made when players were free to negotiate with any team.

Baseball's reserve clause tied players to a team for one year beyond the end of an existing contract, which in practice froze any player's ability to determine his own career. In 1974, Miller encouraged Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally to play out the succeeding year without signing a contract. After the year had elapsed, both players filed a grievance arbitration. The ensuing Seitz decision declared that both players had fulfilled their contractual obligations and had no further legal ties to their ballclubs. This effectively eradicated the reserve clause and ushered in free agency.

As an economist, Miller understood that too many free agents could actually drive down player salaries. Miller agreed to limit free agency to players with more than six years of service, knowing that restricting the supply of labor would drive up salaries as owners bid for an annual, finite pool of free agents.

Miller led the union through three strikes, the first in 1972 which lasted 13 days, in 1980 spring training, and again in 1981 which lasted 50 days, and two lockouts, in 1973 spring training and 1976 spring training. During Miller's era as leader of the Major League Baseball Players' Association (1966-1982), the average players' salary rose from $19,000 to $241,000 a year.

Hall of Fame
Miller fell short of selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame in both 2003 and 2007, although he finished among the leading candidates in voting for executives with 63%.  (Election requires 75% of the vote.)

The 2003 and 2007 votes had been conducted among a committee of all living Hall of Famers, who are primarily players. After they failed to agree on any candidate, including Miller, the voting body was reduced to 12 members, ten of them non-playing. CNNMoney writer Chris Isidore described the switch's effect on Miller's candidacy: "Imagine a runner rounding third and heading for home, only to have a last minute rule change move the location of the plate. That's roughly what happened to Marvin Miller's chances of getting his long overdue recognition in baseball's Hall of Fame."

Miller was up for election again in 2007 under a revamped voting format, but received only 3 of the necessary 9 votes.

Referring to the 12-man voting board, Jim Bouton said, "How did these people vote, and why are their votes kept secret? And why aren't there more players on that committee? Hank Aaron, Jim Bunning, Bob Gibson, Fergie Jenkins—they're all on the committee for reviewing the managers and umpires. Essentially, the decision for putting a union leader in the Hall of Fame was handed over to a bunch of executives and former executives. Marvin Miller kicked their butts and took power away from the baseball establishment—do you really think those people are going to vote him in? It's a joke... I blame the players. It's their Hall of Fame; it's their balls and bats that make the hall what it is. Where are the public outcries from Joe Morgan or Reggie Jackson, who was a player rep? Why don't these guys see that some of their own get on these committees? That's the least they owe Marvin Miller. Do they think they became millionaires because of the owners' generosity?""

The 2007 electorate that rejected Miller consisted of former players Monte Irvin and Harmon Killebrew; former Yankee player and American League president Bobby Brown; former Red Sox executive John Harrington; current executives Jerry Bell (Twins), Bill DeWitt (Cardinals), Bill Giles (Phillies), David Glass (Royals), and Andy MacPhail (Orioles); and media members Paul Hagen (Philadelphia Daily News), Rick Hummel (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), and Hal McCoy (Dayton Daily News).

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig told the Associated Press in 2007, "The criteria for non-playing personnel is the impact they made on the sport. Therefore Marvin Miller should be in the Hall of Fame on that basis. Maybe there are not a lot of my predecessors who would agree with that, but if you're looking for people who make an impact on the sport, yes, you would have to say that." In 2000, Hank Aaron endorsed Miller's selection, saying "Marvin Miller should be in the Hall of Fame if the players have to break down the doors to get him in." Tom Seaver said, "Marvin's exclusion from the Hall of Fame is a national disgrace." Joe Morgan said, "They should vote him in and then apologize for making him wait so long." Broadcaster Bob Costas observed, "There is no non-player more deserving of the Hall of Fame."

On April 14, 2010, Miller's 93rd birthday, a group of former major leaguers launched a website called "ThanksMarvin.com." The site includes appreciations from retired players, and advocates for Miller's induction to the Hall of Fame.

“[Enshrinement] would be nice,” Miller said, “but when you’re my age, 89 going on 90, questions of mortality have a greater priority than a promised immortality.” Asked to predict his chances before the 2007 results had been announced, Miller said, "Let me point out one thing. In the last vote, the number of management people among the voters was a certain percentage. On the new committee management is completely dominant. Aside from miracles, there's no reason to believe the vote will do anything but go down." On another occasion, Miller laughed, "I've never prepared an acceptance speech."

On July 11, 2008, the Boston Globe portrayed Miller as disdainful of the realignment of the Hall's Veterans Committee, and as uninterested in the chances of his own enshrinement. From the article, Miller was quoted:

    "I find myself unwilling to contemplate one more rigged Veterans Committee whose members are handpicked to reach a particular outcome while offering a pretense of a democratic vote. It is an insult to baseball fans, historians, sportswriters, and especially to those baseball players who sacrificed and brought the game into the 21st century. At the age of 91, I can do without farce."

Further changes were made to the Veterans Committee voting process in 2010, effective with the upcoming 2011 induction cycle. Miller was named as one of 12 figures from what the Hall calls the "Expansion Era" (1973–present) to be considered. The composition of the new 16-man voting committee is very different from that in 2007, consisting of eight Hall of Famers (seven inducted as players and one as a manager), four media members, and only four executives.

Honors and awards

In 1997, the MLB Players Association created the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award as one of its annual "Players Choice Awards".

On April 1, 2000, he was honored by the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.

On April 26, 2009, he was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

By WIKI

 

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