The world lost a true legend this week with the death of Marvin Miller at the age of 95. Notice I didn’t say sports world because his impact on society as the head of the MLB Players Association went beyond the play on the field. His tenure allowed the game and other sports to reach unthinkable heights of popularity and profit. Think of how much society changed between his assumption into the role in 1966 to until he left the post in 1982. Think about how much sports had exploded in popularity during that period, how much a part of the American culture it has become. For a more thorough biography on him, check out this article from mlb.com.
Would change have been inevitable if there was no Marvin Miller? Probably. Was he in the right place at the right time? Definitely. However, these changes for baseball might not have happened as rapidly or as successfully if the union chose someone else. The most monumental highlight of his carer in baseball of course was his push for free agency. No longer were players stuck with a franchise for life. They could now choose which situation both financially and personally would benefit them the most. After years of iron-fisted rule by the owners, it was the players who started to swing the money hammer. Gone were the days of a Mickey Mantle being asked to take a pay cut after hitting 31 home runs and batting .285 the prior season. In addition to salaries, Miller was instrumental in players receiving their share of licensing money, everything from apparel to baseball cards. In short, every player for the last four decades and in the future owes a debt of gratitude to Miller as he has made each of these players wealthier than they could ever imagine.
Now that he has passed, it is time for baseball to right an egregious wrong and put Marvin Miller in the Hall of Fame. You can count the number of people on one hand that have had the kind of impact on baseball that Miller had. You probably wouldn’t get much past Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey. Whether you agree with how he transformed the game or not, the fact is he was the most influential man in the sport over the last 40 years. His legacy will live forever. And in 2013 when he is eligible once again,, there better be a plaque ready with his name on it.
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