We’ve been left to wonder all these years how Major League Baseball would ultimately choose to remember Marvin Miller.
After all, Miller was an irritant. He was the union leader who initially grabbed hold of the players in the 1970s and convinced them they had a right to negotiate big contracts and persue free agency to determine where they wanted to play and live.
The owners hated Miller. After decades of having things all their own way, Miller walked in through the back door and helped change the face of baseball – and not to the benefit of the hierarchy in place at the time.
Know this: As Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon wait for Scott Boras to bargain their nine-figure deals, they all have Miller to thank. He thought it possible, reasonable, imperative.
Since he changed MLB in such a fundamental way, one might have expected him to be in the Hall of Fame by now. Mike Mussina is in, for goodness sakes. But he wasn’t. Veteran committees have evaluated his credentials for years and turned him away, perhaps due to the bias of those charged with passing judgment on him.
But that all changed on Sunday. Miller received 12 of 16 votes from this year’s 16-man modern committee – the 75 percent he needed for induction. And he will join former catcher Ted Simmons in the 2020 Hall of Fame class.
The Modern Baseball Era voting panel included six Hall of Fame players (George Brett, Rod Carew, Dennis Eckersley, Eddie Murray, Ozzie Smith and Robin Yount). All were active during the 1981 players strike organized by Miller.
Veteran executives Sandy Alderson, Dave Dombrowski, David Glass, Walt Jocketty, Doug Melvin and Terry Ryan and veteran media members/historians Bill Center, Steve Hirdt, Jack O’Connell and Tracy Ringolsby were also on the committe. The Modern Baseball Era considers candidates whose contributions were most prominent from 1970-87.
Miller led the MLBPA from 1966 to 1982. He died at age 95 in 2012. During his time in charge, players earned free agency after six seasons of big league service. He led the union through five work stoppages to help prove its point.
“Players are pleased that Marvin will now take his rightful and long overdue place in the Hall of Fame,” said current MLBPA executive director Tony Clark, “in recognition of the monumental and positive impact he had on our game and our industry.”
Aware his candidacy was not looked upon favorably by MLB establishment, Miller suggested in 2008 he no longer be considered for induction. And he asked his relatives not encourage the process after he died. But now that has all changed.
“It would have been a great honor 20 years ago,” Miller’s daughter, Susan, told the Associated Press.
Induction day is July 26. Miller and Simmons will be joined by those elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America, a process that is currently underway and is expected to name Derek Jeter, among others, to the Hall.
“Marvin would patiently wait for every single player to speak their mind,” Simmons said when contacted Sunday by the media at the MLB’s winter meetings in San Diego. “No matter how inane, no matter how un-thought out, no matter how off the mark the question came, Marvin painstakingly, patiently waded through it all. And in the end, after everyone had spoke their mind, he would bring it all together and present it in a way that everyone felt as though, yes, this is exactly what we collectively think.”
If you don’t believe prejudice had anything to do with the delay in Miller’s election, know it comes 12 years after that of former commissioner Bowie Kuhn, the ass Miller routinely kicked in labor talks during their days in power.
When Miller took charge, the average player salary was $19,000. It had grown to approximately $240,000 by 1987.
Miller received only 44 percent of votes in 2003 and 63 percent in 2007 when all Hall of Famers were seated on the veterans panel. The Hall eventually downsized committee to 12, but he received only three votes in 2007 from the group that elected Kuhn.
Miller got seven of votes in 2009, and then 11 of 16 from in 2010 – one vote short. He received six votes or fewer of 16 in 2013 and seven of 16 from the new modern era committee in 2017.
“The Hall of Fame is called the Hall of Fame and Museum. Imagine a museum of baseball without Marvin Miller in it,” former union chief operating officer Gene Orza said. “It’s like having a museum of modern art without Picasso in it. I guess I’m happy for all the people who are happy. But I don’t think Marvin would lose any sleep one way or the other over this.”