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blast from the past: the troth of her daughter

marvin miller, r.i.p.

I’ll be brief … there are already many excellent pieces about Miller floating around the web.

Marvin Miller died yesterday at the age of 95. He was the head of the Major League Baseball Players Association from 1966-1982, and his influence during those years was immense. When you read that Miller was as important a figure in baseball during his lifetime as anyone else you could name, it is not hyperbole.

While the head of the Union, he negotiated the first-ever collective bargaining agreement with owners … he got the minimum salary raised … he placed the arbitration process into the system … he was a key part of the destruction of the reserve clause that had effectively kept players signed to their current club forever (or until the club decided they were no longer needed). With this, he helped usher in the era of free agency that exists to this day.

Not everyone liked what Miller accomplished. I recommend Joe Posnanski’s article, which features an interview he did with Miller a decade ago, and details why Miller was a polarizing figure. ( Miller is especially critical of the role he thinks fans should play in labor negotiations (short version: no role at all). Given that many fans think athletes make too much money already, Miller was often on their shit list in any event. Owners hated him, of course. But what he did for the players was historic, and ever since, every player should thank Miller for being a part of their lives as employees.

I have a personal anecdote so slim it’s barely worth mentioning. When Miller first took the job as director of the union, he left his post as a high-ranked official in the United Steelworkers union. I was a member of the Steelworkers for a decade when I worked for Continental Can, and I can recall this one guy, who had the best sense of the history of the union as any of my co-workers, speaking highly of Miller’s work with the Steelworkers.

As I say, I don’t have a lot to add. But Miller was an important figure, and he deserves to be mentioned here.