Marvin Miller was a labor economist who never played organized baseball. Yet he transformed the sport as surely as Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson...
NEW YORK — Marvin Miller was a labor economist who never played organized baseball. Yet he transformed the sport as surely as Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, television and night games.
Miller, the union boss who won free agency for baseball players in 1975, ushering in an era of multimillion-dollar contracts and athletes who switch teams at the drop of a batting helmet, died Tuesday at his New York home. He was 95 and had been diagnosed with liver cancer in August.
“I think he’s the most important baseball figure of the last 50 years,” former commissioner Fay Vincent said. “He changed not just the sport but the business of the sport permanently, and he truly emancipated the baseball player — and, in the process, all professional athletes. Prior to his time, they had few rights.
“At the moment, they control the games.”
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In his 16 ½ years as founding executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, starting in 1966, Miller fought owners on many fronts, not only achieving free agency but making the word “strike” stand for something other than a pitched ball.
By the time Miller retired in 1982, he had forged one of the strongest unions in the nation, creating a model for unions in pro basketball, football and hockey.
Over the years, Miller’s influence was widely acknowledged if not always honored. The Hall of Fame repeatedly rejected him in what was attributed to lingering resentment among team owners.
Five times from 2003 to 2010, voters failed to elect Miller to the Hall.
“They (Hall of Fame officials) decided a long time ago that they would downgrade any impact the union has had,” Miller said in 2010. “And part of that plan was to keep me out of it.”
Major League Baseball’s revenue has grown from $50 million in 1967 to $7.5 billion this year.
“I never before saw such a win-win situation in my life, where everybody involved in Major League Baseball, both sides of the equation, still continue to set records in terms of revenue and profits and salaries and benefits,” Miller said in April.