Marvin Miller led Major League Baseball, kicking and screaming, from slavery into the modern era.
When Mr. Miller was named the executive director of the association in 1966, club owners ruled much as they had since the 19th century. The reserve clause bound players to their teams for as long as the owners wanted them, leaving them with little bargaining power. Come contract time, a player could expect an ultimatum but not much more. The minimum salary was $6,000 and had barely budged for two decades. The average salary was $19,000. The pension plan was feeble, and player grievances could be heard only by the commissioner, who worked for the owners.
By the time Mr. Miller retired at the end of 1982, he had secured his place on baseball’s Mount Rushmore by forging one of the strongest unions in America, creating a model for those in basketball, football and hockey.
Here’s Tommy Bennett’s characterization from earlier this year:
Marvin Miller is a throwback to a past era—maybe two or three eras ago. It’s rare these days to hear a well-dressed economist refer to himself as a lifelong “trade unionist.” It’s rare to hear someone earnestly compare the federal minimum wage to the minimum salary in baseball.
And here’s Miller himself:
Miller has still not been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.