Alex Belth over at Bronx Banter conducted a quite an interesting interview with the estimable Marvin Miller a few days ago. Miller should have gone in the Hall in the last Vets' Committee vote, but appears his ever-affable self when discussing the sport.
The man has a great mind for the business of baseball. He succinctly summed up Curt Flood's involvement in the advent of free agency:
Q: Flood's legacy is often misconstrued. A lot the time I hear him referred to the first free agent, or the guy who started free agency, which isn't the case at all.
MM: You are right; it wasn't the case at all. The case lost, beyond appeals. Nothing concrete came of it other than the educational aspect that we talked about before. The union itself, which through the unity of it's members, through the understanding of the members of what needed to be done, through the skills of people like Richard Moss, who was the general council, who argued the case, to the union's successful effort to have both a grievance procedure and eventually impartial arbitration, all these factors and more, were responsible for the progress that was made.
Without taking anything away from the bravery that Flood evinced, Miller explains the real turning point in the war was the negotiation of the impartial arbitrator:
Q: So the provision in the 1970 basic agreement that arranged for an impartial arbitrator was far more important to how free agency came about than Flood's case.
MM: Oh, without any question. Because as you know, what eventually over-turned the Reserve Clause was a grievance heard by an impartial arbitrator in 1975, and without that having been gained in the contract, it would have been heard by the owner's commissioner, who could tell you up till today, how he would have ruled.
Miller's baseball autobiography A Whole Different Ballgame is a must read for any baseball fan, whether pro-player or pro-owner. I don't think that it's an overstatement to say that Miller is the most influential person off the field since Branch Rickey. The interview is a great leaping-off point in delving into Miller's well-oiled mind.
Also, I wanted to express my thanks to Alex for some very flattering, and I'm sure undeserved, comments that he posted regarding my series on the history of relief pitching.