New York, NY (Sports Network) - Marvin Miller, the first head of the Major
League Baseball Players Association, died Tuesday morning. He was 95 years
Miller helped major leaguers form a union in the late 1960s and served as its
leader until 1982. He guided players through three strikes and a pair of
lockouts, forging what is considered today to be one of the strongest unions
in the United States.
"It is with profound sorrow that we announce the passing of Marvin Miller,"
said current MLBPA chief Michael Weiner in a statement on Tuesday. "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."
Baseball owners held an iron fist over players with the "reserve clause"
before Miller helped transform the game. Prior to Miller's arrival, players
were tied to their teams, as every contract had provided for an automatic
Miller led a committee of players that negotiated the first collective
bargaining agreement with management in 1968. The agreement raised the minimum
salary in baseball from $6,000 -- the level at which it had been stuck for two
decades -- to $10,000 and set the tone for future advances.
Free agency began in 1975 when pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally
played out the option year of their contracts and challenged the "reserve
clause" before arbitrator Peter Seitz. The arbitrator's decision in favor of
the players was later upheld in federal court.
Miller led the players through contentious strikes in 1972, 1980 and 1981, as
well as lockouts in 1973 and '76.
The labor issues continued under Miller's protege, Don Fehr, including a loss
of the 1994 postseason. However, there has been labor peace in baseball for
nearly 20 years, while the NFL, NBA and NHL have battled through their own
labor struggles in recent years.
"Marvin possessed a combination of integrity, intelligence, eloquence, courage
and grace that is simply unmatched in my experience," said Fehr, now battling
through a lockout in the NHL as its union head. "Without question, Marvin had
more positive influence on Major League Baseball than any other person in the
last half of the 20th century."
The average salary in baseball is now $3.4 million. Players also enjoy health
pension and medical benefits thanks to the work of Miller and his successors.
The Sports Network