Marvin Miller, the man who turned baseball players from lowly seasonal employees into the highest-paid players in all of sports, has passed away after a year-long fight against cancer. As the first executive director of the Major League Baseball Player's Association, Miller led a revolution in sports labor, ushering in the era of player free agency, multi-million-dollar guaranteed contracts, and employee protections unheard of in most industries. When the union first-formed in 1966, the average MLB salary was $10,000. In 2012, it's $3.44 million.
Miller helped to re-imagine the balance of power in professional sports, and in doing so may have done more for his workers than any union boss ever has — for any union in history. Before Miller took over, the infamous "reserve clause" prevented players from leaving one team to sign with another without their previous team's permission. These days, star players can demand "no-trade" clauses that flip that bargaining power on its head, preventing anyone from telling that player where they can and can't go.
Despite his massive influence on the game (and all of pro sports), Miller has been denied entry to the Baseball Hall of Fame, mostly due to the fact that he was a constant thorn in the side of the league's owners. Miller withdrew his name from consideration four years ago, after being rejected by the Veteran's Committee, saying, "I can do without the farce." Former pitcher Jim Bouton agreed, adding: "Marvin Miller kicked their butts and took power away from the baseball establishment. Do you really think those people are going to vote him in? It's a joke."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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