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Marvin Miller


Marvin Miller photo

Marvin Miller, 1995 photo

Anthony Barboza/Getty Images
Updated November 29, 2012

Vital Statistics:

Born: April 14, 1917

Died: Nov. 27, 2012

Hometown: New York

Family: Wife, Theresa (died 2009), daughter, Susan; son, Peter; one grandson

Career Highlights:

  • Was executive director of the Major League Players Association from 1966 to 1983, ushering in the modern ballplayer-owner relationship and changing the economics of baseball.
  • Grew up a Dodgers fan in Brooklyn. Studied economics at Miami of Ohio and New York University.
  • A labor economist, he started his career at the National War Labor Relations Board and also worked for the Machinst Union, the United Auto Workers and the United Steelworkers, where he was staff economist.
  • With several players wanting an experienced labor negotiator working for them in 1966, he toured spring training camps and built support to be elected head of the MLBPA, which was never a strong group to that point.
  • After being elected, he helped players negotiate the first collective bargaining agreement in professional sports in 1968, raising the minimum salary from $6,000 to $10,000.
  • In 1969, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Curt Flood challenged a trade to the Philadelphia Phillies, taking on the reserve clause that bound players to their teams for life. Flood lost his case, but it set the process in motion to banish the reserve clause.
  • In the next collective bargaining agreement in 1970, arbitration was included in the CBA for the first time. Previously, disputes were handled by the commissioner, who was elected by the owners.
  • In 1972, the players went on strike for the first time, for 13 days from April 1-13. Owners agreed to a $500,000 increase in pension fund payments and added salary arbitration.
  • There was a brief lockout in 1973, when camps opened late with a new three-year CBA.
  • In 1974, Miller encouraged pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally to play out a season without signing a contract. After the season, Messersmith and McNally filed a grievance arbitration, and arbitrator Peter Seitz ruled on Dec. 23, 1975 that players became free agents upon playing one year without a contract, effectively eliminating the reserve clause. The ruling was appealed to two higher courts, but the courts ruled against the owners. That opened the door for Miller to negotiate a free agent system in baseball with the 1976 collective bargaining agreement, allowing players with six years of experience to become free agents.
  • There was a 17-day lockout from March 1-17, 1976 as Miller and the owners hammered out another CBA.
  • Miller's experience and intelligence in economics came into play in that agreement. By limiting free agency to players with more than six years of service, he effectively restricted the supply of labor, and that contributed to a dramatic rise in salaries as owners would bid on just a small group of players in each season.
  • The fourth work stoppage -- and worst to that point -- took place in 1981. From April 1-8, 1980, the players struck over the issue of free agent compensation, and a new CBA was reached without that issue being resolved that allowed the 1980 season to be played. But the issue was reopened the next summer, as owners wished to have a major league compensation system in place for when a team lost a free agent, while players maintained that any form of compensation would undermine free agency. Players voted to strike on May 29 and went on strike June 12 to July 31, as 712 games were lost. The compromise was that owners won the right to retain players for six years and to be compensated through the draft and from a pool of unprotected players.
  • Retired in 1983. During his time with the MLBPA, the average player's annual salary rose from $19,000 to $326,000. He also won the rights for players to veto trades, an improved pension plan and the use of agents to negotiate individual contracts.

After retirement:

  • Honored by the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in 2000 and was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.
  • Is widely considered the person most deserving of being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame who is not yet honored. He finished short of votes among a committee of living Hall of Famers in 2003 and 2007. On a new committee in 2011, he fell one vote short of being elected.
  • Will be eligible for the Hall of Fame again in 2014 through the Veterans Committee.
  • Died of liver cancer at age 95 in 2012.
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