Thursday, August 12, 2004

The Man Who Changed Baseball

On this date in 1970 Curt Flood lost his case against the baseball reserve clause. The Supreme Court ruled 5-3 in favor of baseball but just as the Minutemen of Lexington and Concord are remembered not because they won their small skirmish but because they began the great war - so too do we remember Curt Flood.

Flood was a career .293 hitter who had won seven Gold Gloves for the St. Louis Cardinals. He was a three-time All-Star who refused to be treated as chattel. On October 7, 1969 - Flood was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies but he refused to report to his new team. Instead he chose to challenge the idea that a player was bound to a team for life and that a team could do with that player as it wished. This idea was embodied in the reserve clause.

Flood would miss the entire 1970 season pursuing his case and would only play 10 more games in major league baseball. At age 33 - he was all done. However, Flood did put cracks in the dam and by 1975 free agency finally arrived for the players.

In these PC times it would be easy to overlook the racial aspects of Curt Flood's case but to do so is a disservice to history and the way it really was. Curt Flood was fighting something that was basically indentured servitude - a sort of highly paid slavery but in the minds of many it was slavery nonetheless.

Flood's case came at a time of great racial unrest in US history and the fact that he was denied his freedom while 5 years later two white guys (Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally) would be granted theirs was not lost on Curt Flood and many others who followed the case.

Today players and fans take many things for granted but many of the benefits the players enjoy today came at a price. It is unfortunate that many remain ignorant of the price that had to be paid by people like Curt Flood.

Curt Flood died in 1997 at age 59. He said he had no regrets.

No comments:

Post a Comment