The continued exclusion of union leader Marvin Miller from the Baseball Hall of Fame is an act of pettiness on the part of baseball executives. Miller’s death on Tuesday, at age 95, means that the man who revolutionized the sport that he loved as a child growing up in Brooklyn will never be properly honored in person. But the Cooperstown committee that chooses retired officials should still induct Miller posthumously in 2013.
No single individual did more to turn baseball into the business juggernaut it is today than Miller, a former steelworkers’ union official who took the helm of the moribund player’s association in 1966. When Miller began his tenure, baseball players had little negotiating power. They were underpaid, yoked to a single team, and provided with scant pensions for a job that few could perform past their 30s. Miller turned the union into an aggressive force, driving up salaries and winning free agency — the radical notion that players should be allowed to sign with the team that offered the highest salary. Owners and traditionalists feared free agency would destroy the sport. Instead, it has enlivened baseball, the sport’s revenues have surged, and other major sports have followed suit, giving players a more equitable share of revenues and greater say over their destinies.
Friction between labor and management is to be expected; many owners loathed Miller. But for the executives on the Hall’s veterans committees to continue to deny Miller’s legacy is, at this point, simply churlish.