Marvin Miller was a polarizing figure, to say the least, in baseball history. Many a fan cursed his existence during baseball's labor wars of the 1970s and 1980s.
But history proved much kinder to Miller, because he was right all along. After baseball ended its labor wars and made the players true partners in the business, the game became more lucrative for everybody, setting itself up for the huge TV deals that made every owner more money.The average salary in 1966 was $19,000 per year. By 1982, Miller had the average salary up to $241,000. The average salary in 2012 was $3.44 million.
Miller died at age 95 on Tuesday. He's not in the Hall of Fame because he made a lot of enemies, and perhaps he'll get there someday. Or maybe Cooperstown isn't the proper venue for Miller. But as far as off-the-field figures who had the most impact in baseball history, Miller is probably No. 1.
What they're saying about 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." -- Current MLBPA leader Michael Weiner, to the Associated Press
"I think he's the most important baseball figure of the last 50 years." -- Former commissioner Fay Vincent, to the AP
"He made a distinct impact on this sport, which is reflected in the state of the game today, and surely the major league players of the last half-century have greatly benefited from his contributions." - MLB commissioner Bud Selig, to the AP
"Marvin possessed a combination of integrity, intelligence, eloquence, courage and grace that is simply unmatched in my experience." -- former MLBPA head Donald Fehr, now the NHL players' union leader, in a statement
"They should throw out every plaque, except Babe Ruth's and Jackie Robinson's, into Cooperstown's streets until Miller's in." -- Thomas Boswell, Washington Post
"He was not Jackie Robinson, and Babe Ruth may have been the most impactful athlete in history, but then you have to look at Marvin Miller. I sure don't know anyone who would have had a greater impact in sports.I don't think anyone understood his vision, because he was so far ahead of everyone else.'' =- Hall of Fame outfielder Reggie Jackson, to USA Today
"What bothers me is that people think he just helped the players. He helped the entire industry. Players didn't know anything about their rights before this. And owners didn't realize how valuable they were without him. There were no padded [outfield] walls. No safety measures. The one thing that's always going to bother me is that he didn't get the credit for the sport being where it is while he's alive.'' -- Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan, to USA Today
"I see this as nothing more than a recognition that the game IS the players. They're the ones who bring the fans in. They deserved a stake. And Marvin helped give them that stake. The game is more prosperous now than it's ever been, so he certainly didn't push the game over the edge. He just pushed the players to that place on the mountaintop where they deserved to stand." -- agent Ron Shapiro, to ESPN.com