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Thread: Discussion: Curt Flood and Free Agency

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    THAT'S A FACT JACK!! GAC's Avatar
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    Discussion: Curt Flood and Free Agency

    I thought this would be a valuable and insightful discussion to have on here.

    What are your views (to those of us that are older and remember when it happened) positive and negative to the Curt Flood case and how it has effected/changed the game of baseball?

    Flood of free agency
    By Nick Acocella

    http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/flood_curt.html

    "I said to Curt -- unless some miracle takes place and the Supreme Court reverses itself -- you're not going to win. And Curt, to his everlasting credit, said, 'But would it benefit all the other players and future players?' And I said, 'Yes.' And he said, 'That's good enough for me,' " says Marvin Miller on ESPN's SportsCentury series.

    A superlative centerfielder on three pennant-winning St. Louis teams in the 1960s, Curt Flood hit better than .300 six times and won seven Gold Gloves in his 12 seasons with the Cardinals. A productive leadoff and No. 2 batter who had at least 200 hits twice, his lifetime batting average was .293.

    But his baseball legacy is fated to have little connection with his accomplishments on the field.

    Curt Flood won seven Gold Gloves in his 12 seasons with the Cardinals.
    Flood is best remembered for his courage in challenging the reserve clause, a move as crucial to the economic rights of players as Jackie Robinson's was to breaking the color barrier.

    In 1969, the Cardinals sent Flood to the Philadelphia Phillies as part of a seven-player trade. Flood had several problems with the deal. He didn't appreciate hearing about it from a front-office underling. He didn't like Philadelphia, a losing team in a rundown ballpark with hostile fans in a city he regarded as racist. But, most important, he didn't think he should be treated like a commodity.

    Refusing to accept the trade, he wrote a letter asking Commissioner Bowie Kuhn to declare him a free agent. When Kuhn refused, Flood decided to retire, but then changed his mind. Instead, he declared war on the reserve clause, filing an anti-trust suit.

    And baseball hasn't been the same since.

    Flood was born on Jan. 18, 1938 in Houston, the youngest of six children of hardworking but poor parents. The family moved to California when Flood was two. By seven, he could outrun other kids in his West Oakland ghetto neighborhood. By nine, he was the catcher for the Junior's Sweet Shop team in a local midget league.

    Following in the footsteps of an older brother Carl, Curt was 10 when he stole a truck and crashed it. Carl would later serve a prison term for bank robbery and struggle with heroin addiction. After this incident, though, Curt mended his ways.

    Early in 1956, Flood graduated from Oakland Technical High School, where he had transferred from McClymonds High after moving in with his divorced sister Barbara so he could care for her children while she worked. Despite his size (5-feet-7, 140 pounds), he was signed by the Cincinnati Reds to a $4,000 contract and shipped off to the Deep South.

    Flood led High Point-Thomasville of the Class B Carolina League to a pennant, leading the league with a .340 average and 133 runs. He also hit 29 homers and drove in 128 runs. Called up to the Reds, he went 0-for-1.

    Earning promotion to Savannah of the Class A South Atlantic League in 1957, Flood was moved to third base. While his average dropped to .299, he again led the league in runs. In three games with the Reds at the end of the season, he stroked his first major league hit, a homer off the Cubs' Moe Drabowsky, in three at-bats.

    Instead of joining neighborhood friends Frank Robinson and Vada Pinson in the Reds' outfield the next season, Flood was traded to the Cardinals on Dec. 5, 1957, with outfielder Joe Taylor for pitchers Marty Kutyna and Ted Wieland. The deal ended the experiment of Flood as an infielder.

    In 1958, after hitting .340 in only 15 games at Triple A Omaha, Flood became the Cardinals' centerfielder and part of the core of a St. Louis team that finished above .500 in every season but one in the 1960s.

    He didn't hit above .261 in his first three seasons, but he blossomed in 1961, when he batted .322. In 1963, he won the first of his seven consecutive Gold Gloves and scored a career-high 112 runs (third most in the majors). The next year, he batted .311, leading the National League in at-bats for the second straight season and tying for tops in hits with Roberto Clemente at 211. He was instrumental in the Cardinals winning their first pennant in 18 years.

    In the World Series against the New York Yankees, his triple, single and two RBI helped the Cardinals win the opener, 9-5. St. Louis went on to win the Series in seven games.

    Flood hit .310 in 1965 before slumping to .267 the next year. But he bounced back with a career-high .335 in 1967, when St. Louis again won the pennant. He contributed to the Cardinals' 7-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the World Series with a single, a run scored and a run batted in. While Flood batted just .179 in the seven games, he protected Lou Brock sufficiently to allow him to steal seven bases, a Series record.

    The following year, Flood had his last .300 season, batting .301 as the Cardinals repeated as National League champions. He also had his best hitting World Series, with a .286 average, four runs and two RBI. But in Game 7 against Detroit, he suffered his most inglorious failure.

    With two on and two outs in the seventh inning of a scoreless game, the Tigers' Jim Northrup lofted a seemingly easy fly to center. But Flood broke in on the ball before realizing he had misjudged it and sprinted back. The ball landed for a two-run triple and, before the inning was over, the Tigers scored another run on their way to a 4-1 victory and the world championship.

    After hitting .285 in 1969, Flood was traded to the Phillies on October 7 with catcher Tim McCarver, pitcher Joe Hoerner and outfielder Byron Browne for first baseman Dick Allen, second baseman Cookie Rojas and pitcher Jerry Johnson.

    At first, Major League Players Association executive director Marvin Miller tried to dissuade Flood from suing baseball, pointing out that an unsatisfactory ruling would end his career. But Flood believed that, despite his $92,000 salary, the reserve clause was not unlike slavery. On Jan. 16, 1970, he filed his an anti-trust suit, known as Flood v. Kuhn.

    At the trial, Jackie Robinson, Bill Veeck and Hank Greenberg were among those who testified on Flood's behalf. But not one active player would testify, fearful of being blackballed from the game.

    Flood, who sat out the 1970 season, lost at the trial level, and then waited out the appeals in Copenhagen. Importuned by Washington owner Bob Short to return to baseball, Flood signed with the Senators in 1971 for $110,000 - but only after being assured his signing would not jeopardize his case. He appeared in 13 games and batted only .200 before jumping the team and going to Majorca, a Mediterranean island.

    In June 1972, the Supreme Court upheld the trial and appellate courts that had ruled in baseball's favor. Although Flood lost his case, the language used in the Court's 5-3 decision (with one abstention) upholding baseball's exemption from anti-trust laws was riddled with rationalizations. In his majority opinion, Justice Harry Blackmun asserted that baseball is a business engaged in interstate commerce. But Blackmun went on to call baseball "an exception and an anomaly" and an "established aberration."

    The contradictory nature of the decision invited a closer look at the sport's status and set the stage for the 1975 Messersmith-McNally arbitration and the advent of free agency. But the demise of the reserve clause didn't help Flood professionally, as he never played in the majors again.

    In his career, the 5-foot-9, 165-pound Flood had 85 homers with 636 RBI (with a high of 83 in 1965) and 851 runs.

    After baseball, Flood achieved some success as a portrait artist. He returned to the Oakland area in 1976 and two years later, after beating a battle with alcohol, he broadcast A's games for a season.

    In 1996, Flood learned he had throat cancer and on Jan. 20, 1997, two days after his 59th birthday, the man who had turned utility players into millionaires died in Los Angeles.
    "panic" only comes from having real expectations

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    Re: Discussion: Curt Flood and Free Agency

    Here's another insightful article....

    http://www.baseballreliquary.org/flood.htm

    Curt Flood was as crucial to the economic rights of ballplayers as Jackie Robinson was to breaking the color barrier. A three-time All-Star and seven-time winner of the Gold Glove for his defensive prowess in center field, Flood hit more than .300 six times during a 15-year major league career that began in 1956. Twelve of those seasons were spent wearing the uniform of the St. Louis Cardinals. After the 1969 season, the Cardinals attempted to trade Flood, then 31 years of age, to the Philadelphia Phillies, which set in motion his historic challenge of baseballís infamous "reserve clause." The reserve clause was that part of the standard playerís contract which bound the player, one year at a time, in perpetuity to the club owning his contract. Flood had no interest in moving to Philadelphia, a city he had always viewed as racist ("the nationís northernmost southern city"), but more importantly, he objected to being treated as a piece of property and to the restriction of freedom embedded in the reserve clause.

    Flood was fully aware of the social relevance of his rebellion against the baseball establishment. Years later, he explained, "I guess you really have to understand who that person, who that Curt Flood was. Iím a child of the sixties, Iím a man of the sixties. During that period of time this country was coming apart at the seams. We were in Southeast Asia. Good men were dying for America and for the Constitution. In the southern part of the United States we were marching for civil rights and Dr. King had been assassinated, and we lost the Kennedys. And to think that merely because I was a professional baseball player, I could ignore what was going on outside the walls of Busch Stadium was truly hypocrisy and now I found that all of those rights that these great Americans were dying for, I didnít have in my own profession."

    With the backing of the Players Association and with former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg arguing on his behalf, Flood pursued the case known as Flood v. Kuhn (Commissioner Bowie Kuhn) from January 1970 to June 1972 at district, circuit, and Supreme Court levels. Although the Supreme Court ultimately ruled against Flood, upholding baseballís exemption from antitrust statutes, the case set the stage for the 1975 Messersmith-McNally rulings and the advent of free agency.

    The financial and emotional costs to Flood as a result of his unprecedented challenge of the reserve clause were enormous. Floodís major league career (his 1970 salary would have been $100,000) effectively ended with his legal action, and he traveled to Europe, spending much of his time there painting and writing, attempting to deal with the pain and frustration of being away from the game he loved. In 1970, prior to the Supreme Court decision, Flood published his autobiography, The Way It Is, a riveting book which forcefully outlined his moral and legal objections to baseballís reserve system. Floodís impassioned literary account of his life is now considered an essential text in the history of the baseball labor movement.

    At the memorial service for Curt Flood, who died of throat cancer in 1997 at the age of 59, dozens of former ballplayers gathered at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles to pay tribute to a man whose sacrifice made him not merely a hero, but a martyr. One mourner compared Floodís social legacy to that of Rosa Parks, while former player Tito Fuentes wondered why the current generation of baseballís multi-millionaires did not attend the service to pay their respect. "He was a great man," Fuentes remarked as he passed by Floodís casket. "Iím sorry that so many of the young players who made millions, who benefited from his fight, are not here. They should be here."

    Former executive director of the Major League Players Association, Marvin Miller, said, "At the time Curt Flood decided to challenge baseballís reserve clause, he was perhaps the sportís premier center fielder. And yet he chose to fight an injustice, knowing that even if by some miracle he won, his career as a professional player would be over. At no time did he waver in his commitment and determination. He had experienced something that was inherently unfair and was determined to right the wrong, not so much for himself, but for those who would come after him. Few praised him for this, then or now. There is no Hall of Fame for people like Curt."

    That is, until now . . . . and the Baseball Reliquary is honored to have Curt Flood in its first class of electees to the Shrine of the Eternals.

    --------------------------------------------------------

    We also cannot forget the 1975 Messersmith-McNally ruling.

    http://ad.usatoday.com/sports/comment/colbod.htm

    Had Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally not taken their demand for free agency in 1975 to arbitrator Peter Seitz, the staggering salaries athletes receive today would never have become reality.

    Says Miller: "I haven't researched this, but qualified people have told me that decision and the labor agreement which was signed the following summer resulted in more money changing hands from an owners group to an employees group than any decision or negotiation in history."

    Kuhn, commissioner from 1969 to 1984, often has second-guessed himself regarding free agency.

    "I'm confident had I resolved the Messersmith-McNally grievance, a free-agency system would have been negotiated that would have worked out better for the fans than the one we have today," Kuhn says. "I didn't have a specific system, but one should have been created."
    "panic" only comes from having real expectations

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    Rally Onion! Chip R's Avatar
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    Re: Discussion: Curt Flood and Free Agency

    I think what Curt Flood did was very brave. I also think that his case gets too much credit for the advent of free agency. His case wasn't about free agency, it was about the right to be able to refuse a trade. But even that right really didn't come about for a few years after that. It's not like the owners decided after winning the Flood case to let the players have free agency and the abilty to reject a trade. Even the latter right is not an absolute right these days. Unless you don't have it written in your contract, you have to have 10 years in the major leagues and play 5 with your current team before you gain that right.

    If anything, the Flood case should have dissuaded players from trying to get more rights. Fortunately for them, they had Miller to fight for their rights and an overconfident group of owners against them. Time after time after time owners did not listen to their counselors. If they had, they may have struck a better deal with the players. The arbitrator who decided the Messersmith/McNally cases gave the owners every opportunity to reach a compromise with the players. But the owners would not give in and the arbitrator had to rule in favor of the players.

    Bowie Kuhn makes me laugh. He thinks he was so much more important than he was. He has deluded himself into believing he was a strong commissioner on a par with Landis. He was really no more than Walter O'Malley's puppet. I can't belive after all that has happened that he still believes he could have come up with some great compromise. Even if he had, he could not have carried it out without the support of the owners. And they did not want to compromise.

    Free agency isn't the problem. If there is a problem, it is with inadequate revenue sharing. If, for example, MLB decided to have teams share all revenue equally, a team like the Reds or Royals or Pirates could bid on free agents as easily as the Yankees, Red Sox or Dodgers could. Money would not be an issue because one team as as much to spend as another. A team could either retain their free agents or go out and pick one up without having to worry about cost. Now whether that would be a good thing for baseball is another debate. But that doesn't mean free agency in and of itself is a or the problem.
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    Re: Discussion: Curt Flood and Free Agency

    The reserve clause -- and its long-time NFL counterpart, the Rozelle Rule -- was so inherently ridiculous from a legal standpoint that the wonder is that it lasted as long as it did.

    Chip has it right -- free agency is not the fundamental problem with baseball; wildly unequal revenues are.
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    Re: Discussion: Curt Flood and Free Agency

    I'm not a union guy, per se, but I have the greatest respect for Curt Flood and what he did in standing up for his rights as am employable man. Curt did not hurt baseball - he helped the players and they shoudl all write him a check.

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    Rally Onion! Chip R's Avatar
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    Re: Discussion: Curt Flood and Free Agency

    Quote Originally Posted by wally post View Post
    I'm not a union guy, per se, but I have the greatest respect for Curt Flood and what he did in standing up for his rights as am employable man. Curt did not hurt baseball - he helped the players and they shoudl all write him a check.
    I also have great respect for Flood. You're right, he did not hurt baseball. But he did not help the players either. Saying Curt Flood was the reason players have free agency now is like saying Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation was the reason African-Americans gained their civil rights.

    In reality, Flood had just as much to do with players obtaining the rights they have now as John Montgomery Ward or Danny Gardella did. I think a big reason Curt Flood receives the credit he did was because he was African-American. They look upon Flood's case as an extention of the civil rights movement since it took place in the early 70s. And a lot of people hold Flood up as a martyr for that cause. People feel sorry for Flood because they believe that The Man was keeping him down because he was African-American. While I do believe that Flood had been discriminated against at many points during his career, the trade from St. Louis to Phiadelphia was for financial purposes, not because he was African-American. Now I don't know if Flood lost the case because he was African-American. I hope it wasn't but you never know. I think it was more of the justices preserving the status quo. I do think that if someone like Robin Roberts, for example, did the same thing Flood did, he wouldn't be lauded today as a patron saint of baseball players.

    Sportswriters and broadcasters get overly sentimental about this and believe that since Flood suffered so much by being discriminated against as a player and was never the same player after he lost the case, that the least they can do for him is make him into this man who sacrificed his career so future players coud reap the benefits. Guys like Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby not to mention countless others had it much rougher than Flood did discrimination wise. What about the players that didn't make it to the majors? The ones who couldn't take the abuse and saw white players who weren't as good as they were go to the major leagues because the big league team already had enough African-Americans on their team? What about the players who were talented enough but didn't get signed at all because of the color of their skin? Where are the acts of Congress with their names on it?
    If players should give a portion of their paycheck to someone, it should be Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally more than Curt Flood. Both players had the courage not to sign contracts with their teams as others in the past did. They had the courage to go all the way with their cause as Flood did. But what they did was more relevant than what Flood did.
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