The selection of Marvin Miller as executive director of the Major League Baseball Players
Association came after a search that began with the University of
Pennsylvania's labor management relations expert, Dr. George W. Taylor, passed
close to former stars Hank Greenberg and Bobby Feller and brought me face to
face with a sympathetic and interested Manhattan attorney named Richard M.
Later the search
led to a Midwestern judge, Robert C. Cannon, and then straight to Miller, who
directs the players' affairs today. I am confident that we found the right man
for the job at the right time and that his presence can strengthen big-league
My own part in
the series of events leading to the present negotiations over the division of
TV money dates from 1950 when I was 24, a 20-game winner for the first time and
Eddie Sawyer's selection to start the second game of the World Series—the only
Series game I ever started. It was against the Yankees, and you are safe in
assuming that pensions, players' associations and executive directors were not
on my mind as I changed into my uniform before the game. But I remember the
then-commissioner of baseball, Governor Happy Chandler, coming into our
dressing room after he heard that some players hoped to bypass the pension fund
and sweeten their end of the World Series pot with money from the sale of TV
rights, a new thing then.
Don't try it,
Chandler advised us. Then he explained that if the money were used to fund the
players' pension, it would help men on all the teams in both leagues and,
equally important, players coming along in the future. Building a strong
pension fund for all, he said, would be far better for baseball than merely
enriching a few whose teams had been fortunate enough to have a good year.
We agreed with
Governor Chandler, then I went out and lost to the Yankees 2-1 in 10 innings.
You might say my interest in the Players Association was born with that defeat,
although the only birth pangs I noticed that day were connected with Joe
DiMaggio's 10th-inning homer that beat me. It was not long after that game that
I became player representative for the Phillies. This was just before the
representatives of the two leagues, Ralph Kiner and Allie Reynolds, went out
more or less on their own and did something a lot of people in baseball thought
was pretty radical. Kiner and Reynolds retained an attorney, J. Norman Lewis,
to help in negotiations with the owners. I remember thinking what a mistake
that was, to bring in an outsider.
If I had my
doubts, the owners were wild. At one of our get-togethers in Atlanta they even
went so far as to have the new commissioner, Ford Frick, say he would not talk
with the 16 player representatives unless they parked Lewis outside in the
corridor. Kiner and Reynolds said, "Look, if he won't meet us with our
lawyer, we're not going in there." I was young, however, and impressed by
the office of commissioner of baseball. I argued that we had to respect Frick.
"No," I said, "let's leave Lewis in the hall. We'll go in as a
group and if we have a technical point we can go out and talk with
The players voted
me down 15-1, which was right, as I soon could see. But I think J. Norman Lewis
never forgot my role there in Atlanta. Later, when the players terminated his
contract, Lewis blamed me and called me a tool of the owners. That seems kind
of funny now, considering what the owners think about me for my part in helping
to bring in Miller, who stands up to them as no one has before.
with Lewis lasted more than five years, during which time Kiner went to
Cleveland in the American League and, at his suggestion, the players chose me
to take his place as National League representative. This was in December 1954,
and we were preparing to negotiate a new long-term radio and TV contract with
the owners. One fact I can remember from that time is that, whatever else might
be open to discussion, 60% of the radio and TV proceeds of the All-Star Game
and World Series and 60% of the net gate of the All-Star Game belonged to the
The years with
Lewis were not without results. The minimum major league salary went from
$5,000 to $7,000, there were increases in the pension fund and the time
required for a player to become a free agent and bargain for himself was
reduced from 10 to eight years.
There was trouble
with Lewis, however, not with what he was trying to do but with the way he went
about his work. Lewis used the press more than some of us thought he should and
he seemed happiest when he was annoying owners.