By Ken Reed

Former MLB players union executive director Marvin Miller passed away recently from liver cancer. His death barely caused a ripple in the sports world. That’s a shame.

Miller’s efforts dramatically improved the pro sports industry, not just for the players, but for fans and even owners, who have thrived under the pro sports business structure Miller helped establish.

“I think he’s the most important baseball figure of the last 50 years,” said former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent. “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.”

Miller was the top labor negotiator for the United Steelworkers when he shocked everyone he knew by agreeing to head the baseball players union in 1965. The union had only $5,400 in its bank account and no staffers.

“I loved baseball, and I loved a good fight, and, in my mind, ballplayers were among the most exploited workers in America,” said Miller about his thinking at the time.

Miller revolutionized pro sports by winning free agency for MLB players. He also was the instigator behind the salary arbitration process in baseball. When Miller took over the minimum player salary was less than $7,000 a year. The players’ pension plan was very minimal. Player grievances could only be heard by the commissioner — who worked for the owners. Today’s minimum salary is nearly $500,000 a year.

“I don’t know of anyone who changed the game more than Marvin Miller,” said Robin Roberts, a Hall of Fame pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies. “His legacy is that through his work, ballplayers for the first time attained dignity from owners.”

That’s a nice legacy.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


Comments are closed.

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.