There are times when baseball is so grand, so worthy of awe.
Then there are times when it is so small, so petty.
Like the way it treated the legacy of Marvin Miller.
He died Tuesday at the age of 95, having lived not only a long life, but one filled with great purpose and accomplishment. He should be remembered as one of the three most influential figures in baseball history.
Yet Miller is not in the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown.
Why? Because the union chief was too good at his job, and at least some of the men who run the sport still resent the way he dragged them into a truly modern era, kickin’ and screamin’ all the way.
“RIP Marvin Miller,” tweeted former Atlanta Braves outfielder Dale Murphy, a two-time National League MVP in the 1980s. “Never did thank him personally for what he did for me and the Murphy family and for all baseball players. Should have.”
While many have contributed to baseball’s long, impressive legacy, three really stand out:
_ Babe Ruth, the boisterous slugger who essentially forged the game that is played today. Of course, he’s in the Hall of Fame.
_ Jackie Robinson, the brave man who crashed through the color barrier to make our pastime truly national. Naturally, he’s in the Hall of Fame.
_ Then there’s Miller, who unshackled the players from a career of servitude to the owners.
He’s NOT in the Hall of Fame.
What an injustice.
Before Miller came along, a player was expected to perform at whatever salary the owner deemed was fair. As you can imagine, the figure tended to be one that guaranteed the owner had a steady supply of Benjamins to light his cigars, while the player had just enough money to get by on until the season was over. Then, of course, he could find another job _ maybe selling Benjamin Moore paint _ to keep food on the table until spring training.
If the players didn’t like this arrangement, well, tough. The owners had a most un-American ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in their hip pocket, the 1922 decision upholding the “reserve clause,” which essentially bound employee to employer for the length of his career, unless he was traded or released. There was no real power of negotiation, unless you were one of the biggest stars and could threaten a holdout. Even then, the owners essentially held all the cards.