I thought a good way to mark Marvin Miller’s death was to look up his reaction to not getting into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2007, at the same time ex-commissioner Bowie Kuhn was enlisted. Ronald Blum of the AP wrote:
Miller, the revolutionary leader of the players’ association from 1966-82, received 35 of 79 votes (44 percent) in 2003, putting him 25 votes short of the 75 percent needed. He jumped up to 51 of 81 (63 percent) earlier this year, falling 10 votes shy.
Kuhn’s total declined from 20 in 2003 to 14 this year, leaving him far short of election.
But after no executives were selected in either ballot, and no players were picked in three tries, the Hall revamped the committee again. Now executives are judged by seven current or former management members, two ex-players and three reporters.
Kuhn got 10 of 12 votes when balloting was announced Monday, a day after the committee met. Miller received just three.
“This was done with precision. If you a set goal in mind, and I think they did, it’s not very hard,” the 90-year-old Miller said by telephone from his New York apartment.
“I’m so able to count votes in advance. Nothing has dimmed with age. No matter how various people involved in the Hall try to put a different gloss on it, it was done primarily to have somebody elected and secondarily to have particular people elected. I don’t think this election was about me.
“I think it was rigged, but not to keep me out. It was rigged to bring some of these (people) in. It’s not a pretty picture. It’s demeaning, the whole thing, and I don’t mean just to me. It’s demeaning to the Hall and demeaning to the people in it.”
Ex-Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss also was elected by the management/pioneers panel, and Dick Williams and Billy Southworth by the managers/umpires committee.
Even current commissioner Bud Selig had backed Miller: “I was surprised that Marvin Miller did not receive the required support given his important impact on the game,” Selig said.
Current players’ union head Donald Fehr called the vote “an unfortunate and regrettable decision and said “the Hall of Fame is poorer for it.”
“Over the entire scope of the last half of the 20th century, no other individual had as much influence on the game of baseball as did Marvin Miller ,” Fehr said. “Because he was the players’ voice, and represented them vigorously, Marvin Miller was the owners’ adversary. This time around, a majority of those voting were owner representatives, and results of the vote demonstrate the effect that had.”
Also, some good paragraphs from a late August 1994 story on Miller and the strike by Mike Klis of the Colorado Spring Gazette Telegraph:
He led the players through a 50-day strike in 1981, the longest work stoppage in sports history. He fears the present strike could top the all-timer because he thinks some owners – namely, Milwaukee’s Bud Selig and the Chicago White Sox’ Jerry Reinsdorf – are much more sinister in their attack.
Miller says their plot began in September 1992, when they orchestrated Vincent’s ouster and replaced him – supposedly temporarily – with Selig.
“I don’t understand why people don’t pick up on it – I think people are so used to conflicts-of-interest in this country that they ignore it – but we are dealing with one of the monstrous conflicts-of-interest in baseball right now,” Miller said. “Which is that Bud Selig is the acting commissioner and at the same time is the owner of one of the small-market teams looking for a handout from the big-market teams to line his pockets.”
Revenue-sharing is at the root of this work stoppage.
It is not so much a conflict between players and owners, as owners and owners. Small-market clubs (eight have been identified) want the large-market clubs (a group of 10 that includes the Colorado Rockies) to give them anywhere from $5 million to $15 million a year. Fine, the large-market owners said, we’ll share revenues, but only if the players agree to a salary cap.
The players unequivocally refused. Hence, the strike.
Selig and his boys knew it would come to this, Miller said. It was important for them to overthrow the game’s ruler because even a pro-management commissioner could not stand by and be labeled as a powerless puppet by the media while the owners attempted to dismember the union.
Remember back in January when Harvey Schiller, executive director of the United States Olympic Committee, and former University of Colorado president Arnold Weber were the top candidates for commissioner? The day the owners were to vote on their choice in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Richard Ravitch, the owners’ chief labor negotiator, stepped in and urged the commissioner selection be put off until after a collective-bargaining agreement had been reached.
That whole process, Miller said, was a sham.
“Ooohh – ha-ha-ha-ha – there’s no question,” he said. “And it’s a mark of how little we understand that the whole media began to speculate as to who was going to be Vincent’s replacement. Well, the fact is they weren’t about to have a replacement when they fired him, because they wanted to attack the union. And of course, they’ve proven that.”
What the owners did vote on at those Fort Lauderdale meetings was to amend a rule and require 75 percent approval from owners on the final collective-bargaining agreement proposal. The old rule required a simple majority. That means if eight of the 28 owners do not agree on a plan that say, does not include a salary cap, they can block the agreement.
It’s called minority rules. The Rockies’ Jerry McMorris, by the way, was the last owner to agree to the 75 percent vote amendment.
“When I say there’s been a two-year running plot to try and destroy the union, I don’t mean all of the owners are involved in that,” Miller said. “But it doesn’t take all of the owners. They’ve passed themselves a stupid rule that handcuffs themselves. That’s awful. Eight clubs can outvote 20? What a lesson in democracy. Talk about role models.
“I think that some owners out there realize that this was an attack on the union. Maybe there are some who didn’t.
“But you don’t need a lot of experience to know the way you deal with this is first you get out of the way any people on their side who might interfere, like a commissioner. Then you pass a rule that says a minority group can control things. You don’t have to worry about simple little things like a majority. Then you set up a demand which you know you can’t get. And you stay with it. That’s how you break a union.”
Will the alleged conspiracy work? Miller doesn’t think so. Even if this season loses its playoffs and World Series and the owners unilaterally impose their proposal, Miller doesn’t think they’ll get away with it. He believes his successor, Donald Fehr, will be able to successfully argue in court that the failed negotiations were the result of owners using unfair labor practices.
And if there is no postseason, Miller believes even Congress – which has allowed baseball to govern itself since the early 1900s – will step in and force a resolution. Finally, Miller said, if the players cannot resolve their differences with this ownership group, they will find another group of investors and start a new league. The recent competitive bidding for the two expansion franchises – won by Denver and Miami – indicates a new league can work.
“If these players don’t have major-league baseball to play and you could put together a team without spending a dime on a franchise, just put up working capital to continue, I think Major League Baseball as a monopoly is over,” Miller said. “There could be an attitude to set up a new league. That’s not a pipe dream anymore.”