75 years ago the feat of that black man named Jackie Robinson, who reinvented racial integration, after 60 years of injustice.
And 53 years ago another baseball player, also black, named Curt Flood, achieved what no one had been able to achieve in 91 years of hard struggle...: Eliminate the reserve clause and thus be able to turn bigleaguers into millionaires.
I did a survey among 25 black current Major League Baseball players, with two questions…: Who was Jackie Robinson? And who was Curt Flood?
12 knew that Robinson, was in 1947, the first black in white baseball since 1887. But only two knew more details.
And two just remembered that "there was a black bigleaguer named Curt Flood."
Robinson is in the Hall of Fame.
Marvin Miller, who came to the Players Association as an executive, thanks to the elimination of the reserve clause, is in the Hall of Fame.
Curt Flood died in Los Angeles of throat cancer on January 20, 1997. He was just 59 years old. He has not even been a candidate to be elevated to the Hall of Fame.
He was one of the best centerfielders of his time with the Cardinals, 1956-1969. But with his offense he couldn't open any doors in Cooperstown, .293 batting average, 85 home runs, 636 RBIs. However, his history as a glorious triumphant leader in the fight against the reserve clause does make him the legitimate owner of a niche in that Museum.
Baseball owes Curt Flood a debt.
The claims of the players against the reserve clause began 145 years ago, in 1878. That is to say, when Flood was fighting for the freedom of the players, about 90 years ago John Montgomery Ward, bigleaguer between 1878 and 1894, had already initiated such claims.
Montgomery Ward, who played in the Major Leagues with three teams, as a pitcher and shortstop, was so enthusiastic in his efforts to achieve the elimination of the reserve clause, that in the middle of his bigleaguer career, he studied law and graduated from the University of Columbia, in 1885
He immediately founded the first Baseball Players Union, the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players, to gain strength in the battle against the Reserve Clause.
Montgomery Ward has been in the Hall of Fame since 1964, elevated by the Veterans Committee.
The message that Curt Flood sent to Commissioner Bowie Kühn
Before the historic change from the Cardinals to the Phillies, Curt Flood, deeply prepared academically, sent this note, forceful and well written, to the commissioner, Bowie Kühn.
“Dear Mr. Kühn: After 12 years in the Major Leagues, I think that I am not the property of someone who sells me at will. I consider that they are violating my basic rights as a citizen and also violate the Laws of the United States.”
"I want to play baseball in 1970 and I received a contract from the Philadelphia team, but I think I have the right to consider offers from other clubs before making a decision."
"I beg you, please, make my position and wishes known to all the teams, letting them see that I am available for the 1970 season... Sincerely, your friend, Curt Flood."
Kühn responded promptly and gracefully, but only informed him that he could not go against the terms. In other words, the reservation clause. So, he was playing with the Phillies or he was out of baseball.
Roberto Clemente's biggest fees were $150 per season. Those of Francisco Lindor, 34 million 100 thousand.
First Free Agents
The first free agents emerged in 1975 ...: Dave McNally (Orioles) and Andy Messersmith (Dodgers), heading for the multimillion.