"When Ed Garvey [Miller's counterpart in football] came along, he stood out as one who represented a bunch of lost sheep, so to speak. They [the owners] finally turned his light out. But nobody's turned Marvin Miller's light out, ever. He's that strong. Without him, strong and intelligent as he is, we might not have that bright light that serves us as a beacon. We people might have been caught in the dark and ended up with willy-nilly and haphazard leadership. I have complete faith in Marvin Miller. All I need to know is what he wants done."
Miller has said that he will stay in his $175,000-a-year job a minimum of one more year and a maximum of two. The current struggle, which, as he sees it, is partly to hold ground already gained, should be his last. But his impact on baseball is assured. It is unlikely he will ever be elected to the Hall of Fame, but the fact remains that he has probably been a more influential figure than anyone in the game in this century, including Judge Landis, Walter O'Malley and any player who comes to mind. He is undoubtedly aware of this.
On a Sunday afternoon last month, Miller was at work as usual in his 32nd-floor Upper East Side apartment. Reggie Jackson, who had asked for a "personal briefing" on the negotiations, had just departed, and Miller, sighing, had settled back onto his living-room couch to, of all things, relax. He bit into an apple.
"I have vague plans to do some writing," he said of his impending retirement. "But after being in a structured job situation for all these years, I'm not sure I have the self-discipline. I'd like to do more reading than I do. Right now, I find myself so fatigued that a lousy TV show is all I can take. I like the theater, and I'd like to go more. My wife [Theresa, a clinical psychologist] retired Jan. 31 from the faculty of Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn. It was a lovely retirement party, which I attended. My children are grown now."
He smiled, amused this time not by an owner's foible, but by one of his own. "What I'd really like to do is study piano again. I haven't taken lessons since I was a child. But my wife would have to learn to endure it. I told her about this, and she said she wouldn't mind my playing, and I said this would not just be playing, it would be playing scales. Now that can get on a person's nerves."
Marvin Miller get on a person's nerves? That long collective sigh you hear is from the Lords of Baseball.