Marvin Miller

Marvin Miller

Marvin Miller
Miller in 2003
Born Marvin Julian Miller
(1917-04-14)April 14, 1917
Brooklyn, New York City, New York, United States of America
Died November 27, 2012(2012-11-27) (aged 95)
Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States of America
Occupation Executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association (1966–1982)
Spouse(s) Theresa Morgenstern
Children 2

Marvin Julian Miller (April 14, 1917 – November 27, 2012) was the 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, Red Barber said, "Marvin Miller, along with Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, is one of the two or three most important men in baseball history."[1]


  • Early life 1
  • Major League Baseball Players Association 2
  • Curt Flood 3
  • End of The Reserve Clause 4
  • Legacy 5
  • Attempts at Hall of Fame Induction 6
  • Honors and awards 7
  • Personal 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11

Early life

Miller was born in United Federation of Teachers.[2]

Miller graduated from New York University in 1938 with a degree in Economics. He resolved labor-management disputes for the National War Labor Board in World War II and later worked for the International Association of Machinists and the United Auto Workers. He joined the staff of the United Steelworkers in 1950, became its principal economic adviser and assistant to its president, and took part in negotiating contracts.[3]

Major League Baseball Players Association

At the United Steelworkers union, Miller worked his way up to be its leading economist and negotiator. In the spring of 1966, Miller visited MLB spring training camps in an effort to be democratically elected Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). He won the election by a vote of 489-136.[4]

Miller negotiated MLBPA's first collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the team owners in 1968. That CBA, covering the 1968 and 1969 seasons, was a short document. It won the players a nearly 43 percent increase in the minimum salary from $7,000 to $10,000, as well as larger expense allowances. More importantly, the deal brought a formal structure to owner-player relations, including written procedures for the arbitration of player grievances before the commissioner.[5]

The next CBA, a three-year deal signed in 1970, built on this gain. For the first time, owner-player disputes not involving the "integrity of baseball" could be arbitrated not before the commissioner, an employee of the owners, but before a three-member arbitration panel with a neutral chairman selected jointly by the players and owners.[6]

Curt Flood

Throughout the 1969 season, Curt Flood, a perennial standout player for the powerhouse St. Louis Cardinals, argued with Cardinals owner August Busch and General Manager Bing Devine over a $10,000 raise in his $90,000 salary. Shortly after the 1969 season concluded, Devine sent Flood a terse, two sentence letter notifying him that he had been traded to the then National League East cellar dwelling Philadelphia Phillies. Flood took the trade as an insult and also viewed it as a punishment by Cardinals management for his increased salary demands. Philadelphia's Shibe Park was known to be the most dilapidated in the major leagues compared with Busch Stadium that opened in 1966. Worse still, Phillies fans had earned a reputation for being virulent racists as was evidenced by the epithets and garbage they hurled at black player Dick Allen. (So bad was Allen's treatment at the hands of Phillies fans, he took to wearing a batting helmet while playing in the field.)[7] Coincidentally, Allen was the player the "Phils" sent to St. Louis as its part of the bargain for Flood.

"Marvin was a groundbreaker. Players of my era and the player of today should appreciate the benefits that resulted from Marvin's leadership. He had a great way of communicating and relating the issues to us. I was proud to be one of the players that sat alongside him."

-- Joe Torre, Major League Baseball executive vice president of baseball operations and former MLB player[8]

Flood wrote a letter to then Commissioner of Baseball Bowie Kuhn stating that he did not view himself as "property" and instructed Kuhn to notify all teams in Major League Baseball that he was willing to consider financial offers to play for any team during the 1970 season. Flood had chosen to ignore the age old reserve clause, which prevented him from negotiating with any MLB team until he had sat out a season. Flood did not take his challenge of the reserve clause lightly and did consult with Miller before suing MLB and Bowie Kuhn. "I told him," recalled Miller, "that given the courts' history of bias towards the owners and their monopoly, he didn't have a chance in hell of winning. More important than that, I (Miller) told him even if he won, he'd never get anything out of it—he'd never get a job in baseball again." Flood asked Miller if it would benefit other players. "I (Miller) told him yes, and those to come."[9]

Flood pressed forward with his suit and, as Miller predicted, became what later generations would figuratively call "radioactive". The MLBPA officially issued a statement supporting his legal battle, but none of his fellow players nor any of his friends came to his defense as the case Flood v. Kuhn made its way to the Supreme Court in March 1972. Flood was represented by prominent labor lawyer Arthur Goldberg, a former Secretary of Labor, Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, and General Counsel of the United Steelworkers while Marvin Miller was the union's chief negotiator.[10]

Meanwhile, Miller took his union on a "lightning" strike on April Fools Day 1972. From April 1 through April 13, the ballplayers simply stayed away from the ballparks while Miller negotiated with the owners. Baseball only resumed when the owners and players agreed on a $500,000 increase in pension fund payments. Owners agreed to add salary arbitration to the CBA. The total 86 exhibition and regular season games that were missed over the entire 13-day period were never played because the league refused to pay the players for the time they were on strike. Most teams lost anywhere from six to eight games off their 162 game schedule.[11]

The Supreme Court decided against Flood by a 5-3-1 vote in June 1972. Flood sat out the 1970 season because no owner wanted to set a precedent by flagrantly disobeying the reserve clause. In 1971 he was signed by and played just 13 lackluster games for the Washington Senators. After that, a disgusted Flood never played Major League Baseball again. Twenty years later, Miller wrote in his memoir that Flood told the players union, "I think the change in black consciousness in recent years has made me more sensitive to injustice in every area of my life." Miller also said that Flood was primarily challenging the reserve clause as a professional ballplayer.[12]

End of The Reserve Clause

Although he lost his personal legal battle, Flood had opened the gates for other MLB players to challenge the reserve clause. In 1974, Miller used arbitration to resolve a dispute when Oakland Athletics owner Charlie Finley failed to make an annuity payment as required by Cy Young Award winning pitcher 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. Hunter eventually went on to sign a five year deal with the New York Yankees for $3.5 million and an additional $1 million signing bonus.[13]

In 1974, Miller encouraged two other pitchers Andy Messersmith of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Dave McNally of the Baltimore Orioles 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.[14] As an economist, Miller clearly 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.[15]

Miller led the ballplayer's union in two more actions against the Major League owners, the second during 1980 spring training, and the third during the heart of the 1981 regular season. The 1981 strike, which lasted 50 days, forced the total cancellation of 713 games, and is estimated to have cost both the owners and players $146 million. Under Marvin Miller's 16 year tenure as the Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, the owners engaged in two lockouts, one in 1973 spring training and the other in 1976 spring training, both the result of negotiations for collective bargaining agreements.[16]


During Miller's tenure as the Executive Director of the MLBPA, the average player's annual salary rose from $19,000 in 1966 to $326,000 in 1982.[17] Miller taught MLB players the basics of human capital as a commodity they were selling to club owners. Working with MLBPA general counsel, Richard M. Moss, Miller educated the players to trade-union thinking. The 1968 collective bargaining agreement was the first of its kind in pro sports. In 1970, players gained the right to have grievances heard by an impartial arbitrator. In 1973, they achieved a limited right to have salary demands subjected to arbitration.[18]

I’m proudest of the fact that I’ve been retired for almost 29 years at this point, and there are knowledgeable observers who say that this might still be the strongest union in the country. I think that’s a great legacy.

-- Miller[19]

MLB is the only professional sport in the U.S. not to have a salary cap. (Although a competitive balance tax has been implemented since 2002, whereby any teams that exceed a mutually agreed upon amount in total salaries are assessed the tax which is paid to MLB and put in an industry growth fund to keep the sport competitive.)[20]

Former MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent said upon learning of Miller's death in 2012, "I think he's the most important baseball figure of the last 50 years. 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."[21] His nemesis throughout the 1970s, MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn was not so kind. "I began to realize we had before us an old-fashioned 19th-century trade unionist who hated management generally and the management of baseball specifically.", Kuhn said of Miller in his memoir.[22]

Attempts at Hall of Fame Induction

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%.[23] (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."[24] Miller was up for election again in 2007 under a revamped voting format,[25] but received only 3 of the necessary 9 votes.

Referring to the 12-man voting board, 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?"[1]

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 Bob Costas observed, "There is no non-player more deserving of the Hall of Fame."[1]

On April 14, 2010, Miller's 93rd birthday, a group of former major leaguers launched a website called "" The site includes appreciations from retired players, and advocates for Miller's induction to the Hall of Fame.[27]

"[Enshrinement] would be nice, but when you’re my age, 89 going on 90, questions of mortality have a greater priority than a promised immortality."

-- Miller[28]

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."[29] 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." [30]

Further changes were made to the Veterans Committee voting process in 2010, effective with the 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 was 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.[31] Despite the changes, Miller again missed out on election, this time falling one vote short of induction.[32]

Miller was on the Expansion Era ballot for the 2014 class,[33] but received fewer than 6 of 16 votes and was not selected for induction.[34] Under current rules, Miller will next be eligible for consideration to be inducted with the class of 2017, and every three years thereafter.

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.[35]

On April 26, 2009, he was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.[36]


Miller was married to Theresa Morgenstern for 70 years, and the couple had two children, Peter and Susan. Theresa predeceased Marvin. Peter Miller, his son, represented the baseball players in Japan.[17]

Miller was diagnosed with liver cancer in August 2012. He died on November 27, 2012, at the age of 95, in his home in Manhattan.[37] In a statement, Michael Weiner, the executive director of the MLBPA, said: "It is with profound sorrow that we announce the passing of Marvin Miller. All players – past, present and future – owe a debt of gratitude to Marvin, and his influence transcends baseball. Marvin, without question, is largely responsible for ushering in the modern era of sports, which has resulted in tremendous benefits to players, owners and fans of all sports."[17]


  1. ^ a b c Allen Barra (November 27, 2007). "> news > Runnin' Scared: Once Again, One of Baseball's Greatest is Kept from Cooperstown by Allen Barra". village voice. Retrieved November 27, 2012. 
  2. ^ Goldstein, Richard (November 27, 2012). "Marvin Miller, Union Leader Who Changed Baseball, Dies at 95". New York Times. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  3. ^ Goldstein, Richard (November 27–28, 2012). "Marvin Miller, Union Leader Who Changed Baseball, Dies at 95/The Bargainer Who Remade the Old Ball Game". The New York Times (Sports/Baseball). pp. Section A Page 1 New York edition. Retrieved October 27, 2013. 
  4. ^ Blum, Ron and Walker, Ben (2012). "Marvin Miller Obituary". The Associated Press. Retrieved October 28, 2013. 
  5. ^ Pappas, Doug. "A Contentious History: Baseball's Labor Fights". Baseball. ESPN. Retrieved October 28, 2013. 
  6. ^ "A Contentious History: Baseball's Labor Fights.". Retrieved October 28, 2013. 
  7. ^ Kashatus, William C (2004). September Swoon: Richie Allen, The '64 Phillies, and Racial Integration. Chapter 6: Pennsylvania State University. p. 166.  
  8. ^ Locker, Bob. "Thanks Marvin". Marvin Miller Tribute Site. Bob Locker. Retrieved October 27, 2013. 
  9. ^ "How Curt Flood Changed Basebal and Killed His Career in the Process". The Atlantic. July 12, 2011. Retrieved 8 January 2014. 
  10. ^ Barra, Allen (July 12, 1991). "How Curt Flood Changed Baseball and Killed His Career in the Process". The Atlantic Monthly Group. Retrieved October 28, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Labor Pains". Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  12. ^ Miller, Marvin J. (1991). A Whole Different Ball Game; The Sport and Business of Baseball. NY, NY: Carol Publishing Group. pp. 185–186.  
  13. ^ "Catfish Hunter Biography". bio.history. A+E Networks Digital. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  14. ^  
  15. ^ Kendrick, Scott. "Free Agency Primer: A rundown of the rules about free agency in Major League Baseball". Baseball. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  16. ^ Kendrick, Scott. "Marvin Miller". Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  17. ^ a b c "Marvin Miller, union leader who fought for baseball free agency dies at 95". Retrieved November 27, 2012. 
  18. ^ Goldstein, Richard (November 27, 2012). "Marvin Miller, Union Leader Who Changed Baseball, Dies at 95". New York Times. Retrieved October 28, 2013. 
  19. ^ Wertheim, John (April 12, 2011). "Marvin Miller on Barry Bonds, drug testing and the NFL labor situation". SI (Time Warner). Retrieved October 28, 2013. 
  20. ^ Ornick, Steve. "Baseball Luxury Tax". Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  21. ^ Blum and Walker. "Marvin Miller Obituary". Associated Press. Retrieved October 28, 2013. 
  22. ^ Kuhn, Bowie w/ Appel, Martin (1987). Hardball: The Education of a Commissioner. Chapter 6: New York Times Books. p. 77. 
  23. ^ [4]
  24. ^ Weekly, A (November 30, 2007). "Miller's time? Don't count on it". CNN. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  25. ^ "Veterans Committee Ballots Announced" (Press release). National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. November 8, 2007. Retrieved November 13, 2007. 
  26. ^ [5]
  27. ^ Locker, Bob. "". Retrieved October 28, 2013. 
  28. ^ "Sports Business News: Put Marvin Miller into the Baseball Hall of Fame". December 3, 2007. Retrieved November 27, 2012. 
  29. ^ Bodley, Hal (November 30, 2007). "It's time for Marvin Miller to get his Hall of Fame pass". USA Today. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  30. ^ Grossfeld, Stan (July 11, 2008). "A Reserved Clause". Boston Globe, Sports, p. 1.[6]
  31. ^ "Expansion Era Committee to Consider 12 Candidates for Hall of Fame Election at December’s Winter Meetings" (Press release). National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. November 8, 2010. Retrieved November 8, 2010. 
  32. ^ Bloom, Barry M. (December 6, 2010). "Gillick newest member of Hall of Fame".  
  33. ^ "Twelve Finalists Comprise Expansion Era Ballot For Hall of Fame Consideration in 2014". Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  34. ^ "Cox, La Russa, Torre elected to Hall of Fame". Retrieved 10 December 2013. 
  35. ^ Honoree Details: Marvin Miller. The National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum official website. Retrieved September 13, 2011.
  36. ^ Inductee Details: Marvin Miller. The National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum official website. Retrieved September 13, 2011.
  37. ^ Associated Press. "Marvin Miller, who revolutionized sports by creating baseball free agency, dead at 95". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 27, 2012. 

Further reading

  • Marvin Miller (2004). A Whole Different Ball Game : The Inside Story of the Baseball Revolution. Ivan R. Dee.  
  • Robert F Burk (2015). Marvin Miller, Baseball Revolutionary. University of Illinois Press. 
  • This chapter in Ruttman's history, based on an October 1, 2007 interview with Miller conducted for the book, discusses Miller's American, Jewish, baseball, and life experiences from youth onward.  

External links

  • Marvin Miller, MLBPA Executive Director, 1966–83. Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) official website
  • Baseball Hall of Fame – 2008 Veterans Committee candidate profile
  • Baseball Hall of Fame – 2007 Veterans Committee candidate profile at the Wayback Machine (archived April 20, 2007)
  • The early days of free agency by Darren Rovell
  • Marvin Miller interview (by David Davis July 2003)
  • (a laudatory website run by former major-league players)
  • Keith Olberman Remembers Marvin Miller on YouTube