Obit of the Day (Breaking): Former Baseball Union Head Marvin Miller
Marvin Miller, the man who led the way for baseball free agency (and, in turn, free agency for all other professional sports), has passed away at the age of 95. Miller led the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) beginning with its formation in 1966 until his retirement in 1982.
Miller was a labor economist who had worked with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the United Steelworkers before coming over to assist the major league baseball players. In 1968 he led the first successful collective bargaining agreement with MLB raising the minimum salary of ball players by 67%, from $6,000 to $10,000. Four years later the players struck for the first time - for all of 13 days - earning an increase in pension payments and the addition of arbitration to the collective bargaining agreement.
A year later, Miller partnered with St. Louis Cardinals outfielder, Curt Flood, to fight the decades old “reserve clause.” The clause allowed owners to re-sign players to one-year contracts in perpetuity if they player and team could not come to a salary agreement. It also allowed players to be traded at any time without input or agreement. The Cardinals attempted to trade Flood to the Philadelphia and he refused the trade.
Miller recommended that he sue baseball and Flood did. Flood v. Kuhn (1970) would eventually end up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Unfortunately Flood lost and would never play again but MLB created the “10/5” (aka, The Curt Flood Rule) that allowed players who had played ten seasons, and five with the same team, to veto any trade.
In 1974 Marvin Miller began to make inroads against the reserve clause. First he sued Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley in 1974 for violating the contract of his star pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter. An arbitrator agreed and Hunter became free to sign with any team. Hunter signed a five-year contract for $3.5 million with the NY Yankees - an unheard of sum up to that point.
The following year, Miller encouraged pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally to not re-sign their contract and take MLB to arbitration. After the hearing, the arbitrator decided that both players had fulfilled their contracts and they need not re-sign with their teams. The floodgates to free agency had opened wide.
Miller told the story in Ken Burns’ documentary Baseball that originally every player in MLB would become free agents the following year but owners were so worried about that prospect that they demanded that free agency be limited to certain veterans. Miller was happy to comply because it created a scarcity, which would raise salaries. He was right.
In 1965, the year before Miller joined the MLBPA the average players salary was $14,361 (in 1965 dollars) . When Miller retired in 1982 it was $245,000. For the 2011 season it was $3.1 million.
Famed Brooklyn Dodgers broadcaster, Red Barber, called Marvin Miller “one of the two or three most important men in baseball history” after Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson.
(Image of Marvin Miller, right, with Curt Flood, 1970, is copyright of AP and courtesy of ThePoint)
For 40 seasons, beginning in 1971 and ending in 2010, fans of the St. Louis Cardinals would listen to the marvelous organ playing of Mr. Ernie Hays. Hays, who left the team after a change to recorded and non-traditional music, passed away at the age of 77.
Hays was probably the only sports organist with a degree in electrical engineering. He was certainly the only one to help calibrate test components for the Gemini space missions.
Ernie Hays, also played organ for St. Louis University, the St. Louis Spirits (ABA), the St. Louis Blues (NHL), and the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals (now in Phoenix). He is best known for his rendition of the Budweiser jingle, “Here Comes the King,” which he would play during the seventh inning stretch at Cardinals games. (For decades the Cardinals were owned by the Busch family, who also brewed Budweiser beer. However Hays first played the song at an indoor soccer game.)
(Video of Hays playing “Here Comes the King” is courtesy of sebben76 via YouTube.com)
October 24, 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947. There are myriad sources telling of Mr. Robinson’s career and legacy. Obit of the Day will, instead, share some little known facts:
- Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born on January 31, 1919. He was named for President Theodore Roosevelt who died on January 6 of that year.
- Jackie attended UCLA and was the first student to letter in four sports: baseball, football, basketball, and track.
- He won the NCAA Long Jump championship in 1940.
- While at UCLA his worst sport was baseball.
- During World War II Robinson enlisted in the Army. In 1944 while serving at Ft. Hood in Waco, Texas he was court martialled for refusing an order to move to the back of a bus because of his race. He was found not guilty.
- Robinson would play one season in the Negro Leagues for the Kansas City Monarchs. According to Robinson, if Branch Rickey of the Dodgers hadn’t recruited him for the majors, he would have quit playing baseball and become a coach at Sam Houston College.
- Robinson was 28 years old when he stepped on the field on April 15, 1947 as the first African American major leaguer in over 60 years. He won the Rookie of the Year award, which is now named for him.
- Here are his stats for his career with the Brooklyn Dodgers which included the 1949 MVP Award as well Brooklyn’s only World Series victory in 1955.
- Jackie played himself in The Jackie Robinson Story (1950), his wife was played by Ruby Dee.
- He was traded to the New York Giants, the Dodgers NL rival, after the 1957 season. He never played for the Giants having already signed a contract to work for Chock Full O’ Nuts - a coffee company.
- In 1965 Robinson became the first African Americans sports analyst when he worked on ABC’s Game of the Week.
- Robinson was a Republican, supporting Richard Nixon in the 1960 election as well as Nelson Rockefeller’s presidential and gubernatorial bids. He left the party in 1968 after they failed to support civil rights legislation in the 1960s.
- Robinson’s last public appearance was at game 2 of the 1972 World Series (October 15) where he threw out the first pitch in honor of the 25th anniversary of the integration of baseball. The Cincinnati Reds were playing the Oakland A’s.
- He died at the age of 53 from a heart attack in his home. His eulogy was given by the Reverend Jesse Jackson.
- In 1997 Jackie Robinson became the first, and so far only, player to have his uniform number retired throughout all of baseball. (Wayne Gretzky is the only other professional athlete to earn that honor.)
- Jackie’s brother, Mack Robinson, won the silver medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympics in the 100 meter sprint. Jesse Owens finished first.
- Jackie’s wife, Rachel, was an associate professor of psychiatric nursing at Yale University at the time of Jackie’s death.
- Jackie’s son, Jackie Jr., died in a car accident in 1971. He was only 27.
Sources: NYTimes, jackierobinson.com, Wikipedia, IMDB, The National Archives, baseball-reference.com
(Image is copyright of the Associated Press and courtesy of nabnyc.blogspot.com )
And here’s the trailer for the April 2013 release of the film 42. Yes that’s Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey and Chadwick Boseman as Jackie. Music by Jay-Z.
Boston Red Sox shortstop, and the namesake for the most famous foul pole in all of baseball, Johnny Pesky has died at the age of 92. Pesky spent parts of six seasons playing for the Sox, and also with the Detroit Tigers and the Washington Senators. A decent hitter, Pesky finished with a lifetime .307 average, which included three straight seasons of over 200 hits, leading the league each year. (Those seasons were 1942, 1946, and 1947, since Pesky, like most other players of his generation, had his career put on hold by World War II.)
Pesky’s 1946 season was his best, hitting .335 with 208 hits, and helped lead the Sox to the World Series. He finished 4th in the AL MVP voting that year. (Actually the Red Sox took 3 of the 4 top spots with Ted Williams finishing first and Bobby Doerr finishing third. So much for splitting the vote.)
After the 1954 season Pesky retired and returned to the Red Sox in various capacities including bench coach, radio analyst, and unofficial “ambassador” for various on-field events. Pesky had his number 6 retired by the team in 2008.
Now about that foul pole. According to Pesky, Red Sox pitcher Mel Parnell gave the pole the nickname “Pesky’s Pole” in 1948 after the shortstop hit a game-winning home run that bounced off the pole giving Parnell the win*. (According to Wikipedia, Pesky never hit a game-winning homer during a Parnell-pitched game.) Although the pole was called “Pesky’s” for decades the Red Sox didn’t make the moniker official until 2006.
* That was one of only 17 home runs Pesky hit in his career.
(Image of Johnny Pesky’s 1952 baseball card is copyright of Topps and courtesy of baseballsimulator.com)
In 2004, Roger Jongewaard was awarded the Roland Hemond Lifetime Achievement Award from Baseball America in honor of his career in baseball. Jongewaard was a scout, and a mighty good one at that.
Beginning with the New York Mets, Jongewaard pushed the team to draft future stars including Darryl Strawberry (#1 overall in 1980), Lenny Dykstra (13th round, 1981), and Billy Beane (#23 overall in 1980), who disappointed as a player, but made his name as the GM for the Oakland A’s and became famous as the subject of Michael Lewis’ Moneyball.
Jongewaard moved to the Seattle Mariners in 1985 and was instrumental in the decision to take a high school graduate from Moeller High School in Cincinnati: Ken Griffey, Jr. (#1 overall in 1987)*. Six years later, Jongewaard recommended drafting a high school shortstop from Florida named Alex Rodriguez (#1 overall in 1993).
Roger Jongewaard, who passed away at the age of 76, was named West Coast Scout of the Year in 2005 and was named a Legend in Scouting by the Professional Baseball Scouting Association in 2010.
Additional sources: USAToday.com and baseball-reference.com
(Image of Griffey courtey of pittpeas.mlbblogs.com; image of A-Rod is courtesy of North and South of Royal Brougham; image of Darryl Strawberry is courtesy of sikids.com and copyright of Manny Millan/SI.)
* Jongewaard convinced the Mariners to take Griffey over Cal State-Fullerton pitcher Mike Harkey. Harkey was drafted 4th by the Cubs. He would play for 8 seasons for four different teams, finishing with a 36-36 career record.
Obit of the Day: On the Radar
It’s always fun to find the scouts at Spring Training. They’re the ones with a stopwatch in one hand and a radar gun in the other. Throw in some gut instinct - or a hefty dose of sabrmetrics - and you have someone armed and ready to find top pitching talent.
The radar gun wasn’t part of baseball scouting until Hal Keller, who worked for both incarnations of the Washington Senators as well as the Texas Rangers. Keller, who got the idea from Michigan State baseball coach Danny Litwhiler, realized that an accurate measurement of pitch speed would make the lives of scouts much easier. Before Keller, determining pitch speed involved a lot of math. Dividing the distance from the mound to home plate - 60’ 6” - by the time the pitch took to arrive in the catcher’s mitt would get you an approximate speed. (For those with an affinity for physics and formulas - v=d/t.) With the radar gun you simply write down the numbers you see.
Keller’s work as a scout earned him a reputation that led him to the general manager’s office of the Seattle Mariners for the 1984 and 1985 seasons. During his time the Mariners would win 148 games versus 176 losses for an unimpressive .457 winning percentage but he also helped sign some of the team’s earliest stars including Alvin Davis, Harold Reynolds, and Mark Langston.
Keller who received the George Genovese Lifetime Achievement Award in scouting from the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation in 2010 was also the brother of Yankee outfielder and five-time All Star Charlie “King Kong” Keller. Hal Keller died at the age of 84.
Additional source: seattletimes.com
An version of this post is also found at www.obitoftheday.com.
(Image is copyright of Doug Pensinger/Getty Images and courtesy of latino.foxsports.com. The photo was cropped.)
When Paul Minnick headed to Crosley Field on April 14, 1936, he watched his Cincinnati Reds lose 8-6 to the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the lineup that day were future Hall of Famers Ernie Lombardi, Kiki Cuyler, Paul Waner, and Arky Vaughan.
He would then be in the stands at Crosley, then Riverfront Stadium, and finally, The Great American Ballpark for every Reds’ home opener for the next 75 years. His final Opening Day was in 2011 when his Reds defeated the Brewers, 8-6. (He was too ill to attend the 2012 opener.)
Paul Minnick died at the age of 93.