Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY Sports
Marvin Miller, 95, who formed the Major League Baseball Players Association in 1966 and helped transform sports economics, died Tuesday morning, the union announced.
Miller, who turned the union into one of the most powerful in the country, negotiated the first collective bargaining agreement in sports history in 1968. Six years later, he successfully challenged the "reserve clause'' when Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally played out the option years of their contract. Players were granted free agency after six years of major league service, which was formalized in the next collective bargaining agreement.
The minimum salary was $6,000 when Millerformed the union, and today, the minimum salary is worth $480,000. Miller also bargained for salary arbitration, which has been responsible for salaries tosoar for players before entering free agency. The average salary was $3.4 million in 2012. He also helped players negotiate the right to arbitration to resolve grievances.
Miller was called by Hall of Fame broadcaster Red Barber as one of the two or three most important men in baseball history, along with Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson. Yet, he was never inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame.
Miller also led union through three strikes, and two lockouts, which perhaps damaged his Hall of Fame chances. He fell short in the executive balloting in 2003, 2007 and 2011, with Hall of Famers Joe Morgan and Tom Seaver endorsing Miller.
Former major league pitcher Jim Bouton was openly critical of the election, saying: "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. ...Do they think they became millionaires because of the owners' generosity?"
When Miller wasn't elected last time, he announced that he no longer wanted to be considered for the honor.
"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,'' he said. "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."
Miller's successors, Michael Weiner and Don Fehr, also issued statements critical of the vote.
"Marvin's legacy is undiminished by this vote,'' said Weiner, who replaced Fehr as the union's executive director. "The Hall, by contrast, squandered a chance to better itself as an institution."
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