Although little of this sounds serious, the owners take it hard, not only because it will cost them money, but because Miller is the kind of man who knows how to make important public-relations noises—as he did during a dispute with Charles O. Finley, owner of the Athletics. Miller marched right out and filed an unfair-labor-practices charge, which is the kind of thing that drives owners up the wall because it is the stuff of courtrooms and congressional investigations and it tampers with their holy grail, the reserve clause.
Miller makes the owners particularly edgy when he trots out a briefcase full of impressive statistics. Most of these have to do with the one issue involved, the minimum salary. For 10 years it has been $7,000, and a player does not get even that unless he makes the club for most of the season. "It may be the only salary in America which is unchanged in that period," Miller points out. "There is a minimum in hockey of $10,000, and you can't compare the economics of hockey and baseball."
The owners have offered a $9,000 minimum and the reason they will go up only if forced to is that the rise probably will mean other raises all along the line. Miller counters this argument with his statistics:
"At between $7,000 and $8,000 there are more players than there are in any other $1,000 range. Over 6% of the players are getting exactly $7,000. Over 18% are getting $9,500 or less. Over 26% $11,500 or less. The median salary, the salary that 50% are under and 50% over, is only $17,000."
This last figure upsets Gaherin, who says the median salary figure is highly debatable and that "I have heard it is much higher." Unlike Miller, though, he does not reach into his attach� case for a set of figures.
When union people negotiate they talk about "muscle," and Miller often threatens to use his. There is no question of a strike as such. But Miller suggests the possibility that players may become so emotionally involved they will refuse to sign their contracts. "What do you call that," he says with a tight smile, "a holdout?"
That is what he has in mind when he talks of calling a "special convention" of players. But will the players cooperate? Will the $30,000-a-year man hold out for the rights of a rookie he doesn't even know? Jack Fisher, New York Met pitcher and player representative, thinks he would. "It's a matter of taking pride in your profession," he says. "We don't think we'd be fighting for ourselves. We'd be fighting for baseball."
For professionalism, you can't beat either Miller or Gaherin. It is difficult to say which of these men has had the more notable career. The 50-year-old Miller went to work for the steel union after World War II and today counts as his greatest accomplishment the establishment of a Human Relations Committee that helped resolve disputes during the life of the contract, rather than leaving them to fester until a strike deadline grew near. "There had been strikes in basic steel in 1946, '49, '52, '55, '56 and '59," Miller said recently in his comfortable office high up in the Seagram Building on New York's Park Avenue. "In 1962 we negotiated a new agreement six weeks before the old one expired. In 1963 we were finished some four weeks before. When we got to 1965 this represented the longest strike-free period in the history of basic steel."
After 16 years in the union Miller found that many of his tasks had become routine, and he was thinking of a change when the offer came from the Baseball Players' Association. "What appealed to me was that it was something close to my experience and yet new and different," Miller says in the quiet, precise, lawyerlike manner he affects, although he is not an attorney.
Gaherin, who may be used to working for groups for which he cannot really speak, is 52 years old and, like Miller, a New Yorker. He worked for the FBI, became assistant stationmaster of the Pennsylvania Railroad, moved over to the Long Island Rail Road as manager of personnel, became director of labor relations of the New Haven Railroad, held the same post at American Airlines, took a job with the New York Harbor Carriers Conference Committee in time for the great tugboat strike of 1959, and went to work for the Publishers' Association in 1964. He has now been installed in a somewhat tacky and unfashionable office on 42nd Street.