Marvin Miller died on Tuesday. The sad state of sports affairs would ignore this monument of sports history. ESPN on Tuesday morning had a special feature on Sean Taylor. While Taylor was an exceptional talent, the fact of the matter is no one human walking the planet had the impact on the sports landscape as Marvin Miller.
In the 1960′s-1970′s, baseball was king. Football had recently become popular through the “Greatest Game Ever Played,” the 1959 championship game contested by the Colts and Giants. But baseball was still the pre eminent sport on the landscape. And no one man did more to affect said sport than Miller.
Back in those days, players were still encumbered by the Reserve Clause, a clause in all major league contracts that essentially made players indentured servants to their ballclubs. In 1969, Miller and Cardinals outfielder Curt Flood challenged the antiquated edict, and, in the process of actually losing in the Supreme Courts ruling, changed the face of American Sport forever. The challenge of the reserve clause opened the door of free agency, and when Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally walked through those free agent doors in 1975, Sport in America was never the same.
Marvin Miller was the reason for this. While Flood lost the battle (and became one of Sports biggest Tragedies), Miller and the newly hatched Players Union won the War. It opened the doors for players ranging from Reggie Jackson to Alex Rodriguez to dip their toes in the affluent free agent drinking pool, and from the NFL to MLB, NHL to the NBA, it changed the face of American sports and ushered in the era of the Uber-Millionaires. The ten year contracts accruing millions upon millions a year for overhyped, overpaid athletes who in turn piss said millions away. It may not be the best system, but it IS the system of sporting contracts.
Unfortunately, Marvin Miller has not been recognized by Cooperstown. It is a farce. No one man not named Ruth has as drastically changed the landscape of the game, to the betterment of the players, to the dismay of the owners. Marvin Miller changed the game, and on this, the dawning of his death, I hope sports fans everywhere recognize and realize the full spectre, the broads and depths that this man changed the landscape of American Sport, for better or worse, forever in this country. Sean Taylor was a remarkable athlete. Marvin Miller was a remarkable man, and one who history should extol for centuries.