Marvin Miller established the Major League Ballplayers Association, made it the most effective union in the country, and in the process became what former Dodgers broadcaster Red Barber called, “along with Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, one of the three most important men in baseball history.”
Everyone agrees that Marvin Miller, who turned 93 today, should be in the Hall of Fame. Everyone: former players such as Tom Seaver, Robin Roberts, Reggie Jackson, Hank Aaron, and Joe Morgan; broadcasters like Bob Costas, Tim McCarver and Joe Buck; journalists and media analysts such as Murray Chass, Peter Gammons, and Harold Reynolds; former commissioner Fay Vincent; current commissioner Bud Selig; historian Bill James, Democrats like former Yankees pitcher, union player rep and delegate to the 1972 Democratic convention Jim Bouton; and even, as Deadspin pointed out last month, Republicans like Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning, who was one of Miller’s player reps when he was with the Phillies and is a long-time supporter for Miller’s HOF candidacy.
Everyone supports Miller’s candidacy — everyone, that is, except a couple of voters on the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee.
Perhaps the ultimate insult came in 2007, when Miller was once again denied a plaque in Cooperstown and his longtime adversary, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, whom Miller defeated in every labor confrontation, was voted in. Miller responded with a letter to the Baseball Writers Association of America asking that his name be removed from consideration and stating in clear terms that he would refuse even if he should be voted in.
However, Miller’s request was not honored, and last year his name was on the ballot and he lost for the fourth time — by two votes. Who were the nay-sayers on the Veterans Committee who denied what everyone else seems to affirm? The 12-man panel included only two players (Seaver and Roberts) along with three writers and seven executives — none of them executives from the players union.
“Marvin wounded a lot of egos on management side,” says Ray Grebey, once Miller’s opponent as chief negotiator for the major league owners. “There’s people out there on management side who still remember the whippings Marvin give them, bringing free agency to the players and winning every labor dispute. There’s not a lot of them, but they have power.”
Just a thought, but perhaps the veterans committee should be restructured to be give the players and writers more of a voice?
It’s ironic, then, that a former member of the owner’s team should be the one leading the charge for what might well be Miller’s final HOF bid. Grebey has been petitioning the HOF for months now and gathering support among former players, officials, and the media. On the other flank, former relief pitcher and player rep Bob Locker (1965-1975) has put up a website, ThanksMarvin.com, soliciting support.
You can read articles by Gammons and Sports Illustrated‘s Joe Posnanski, and myself (in the interest of full disclosure, I worked with Miller on his 1991 autobiography, A Whole Different Ball Game) and watch Charlie Rose interview Miller and Bob Costas.
Miller, for his part, says he will not change his mind even if the HOF changes theirs, “but it’s gratifying to hear from these guys after so many years and know they still appreciate what we accomplished together.” Grebey, for his part, says, “I respect Marvin’s decision and won’t try to talk him into coming to Cooperstown if we succeed in getting him elected. But with all due respect, this is an issue bigger than Marvin. It’s a wrong that’s needed to be righted for nearly 25 years.”