Babe Ruth forever changed Major League Baseball in the 1920s by bringing the big blast home run ball to the game.
Jackie Robinson broke through the color barrier in the dugout, clubhouse and on the base paths in the late 1940s.
And Marvin Miller forever changed the business of Major League Baseball in the 1970s by bringing labor representation into a game that had been borderline slavery for nearly 100 years.
We only saw in grainy black and white films what Babe Ruth did with his Yankees home run power.
We have seen and heard about all the things Robinson meant to fans when he put on #42 for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
We see today the legacy of Marvin Miller, the Union Chief, when we go to a modern day Dodgers-Angels-Padres game.
Miller passed away on Tuesday at the age of 95, forever leaving his mark on the game — free agency, arbitration, work stoppages, strikes, a bitter collusion case. That is all part of his legacy.
Without Marvin Miller, we might never have seen the “Singing Cowboy” put the then California Angels franchise on the baseball map. Those were the days of Reggie Jackson, Bobby Grich, Don Baylor, Carney Lansford, Joe Rudi and so many more free agents that Autry lavished money on.
Padres’ owner Ray Kroc tried to buy his way to a pennant for a time in San Diego. That was the era of Gaylord Perry, Rollie Fingers, Steve Garvey, Goose Gossage and Gene Tenace.
The Dodgers’ way was always through the farm system, but there were signings during the Peter O’Malley era – ill-timed investments in Don Stanhouse, Dave Goltz and Jason Schmidt, though they did strike gold with World Series hero Kirk Gibson.
As Marvin Miller is remembered, his accomplishments are everywhere. Baseball salaries jumped from an average of $10,000 for a player’s first year to the $25 million per year the marquee free agents might get next week.
The pension plan and the long-term, after-career healthcare programs are the unknown accomplishments the public does not see and have set a standard of excellence in virtually all the other sports.
His resolute stance to fight the fight as union leaders do was historic.
Baseball’s owners had crushed every attempt to unionize dating back to 1948 until 1956. The owners then threw quarters into the pot as if to make the players feel they had won. It all changed in the 1960s when Miller presented charts, graphs and profit-loss statements, showing how much the Yankees, Dodgers and other clubs were profiting.
All the while, players’ earning power suffocated and they were forever locked to their clubs with the ‘reserve clause.’ You were the property of that team until they decided to get rid of you, you quit or you died.
Marvin Miller not only got the players free-agency through an arbitrator’s decision, he got them enormous pay hikes every time a collective bargaining agreement came up for renewal.
The Bowie Kuhn administration caved — the end result of three Marvin Miller-led strikes and two owner-induced lockouts.
And when war was declared by the owners against the players in the 1980s, Miller won a massive court battle over collusion, collecting $284 million in damages from the owners, who one year decided not to bid on free agents anywhere.
Those players not only got free agency, each club was socked with over $10 million in damages to go towards the damaged players.
The modern day stars owe their paychecks to the old school leader, who came out of the steel industry and fought for their rights, freedoms and paydays.
The union fights, though not as bloody as you would see in the streets of Pittsburgh, Boston or Detroit, were just a vicious in baseball. Those fights have now brought us labor peace, thanks to that leader. In an era where it was ugly, he kept unity among the players, never letting them splinter and eventually breaking the spirit of ownership.
Babe Ruth changed the game with his home run swing, his trot, his personality. Jackie Robinson changed the game with his daring base running, his glove, his courage.
Marvin Miller deserves to be in the Hall of Fame for what he meant to baseball players and their careers, for how he negotiated on behalf of the superstars of the 60s and 70s, and the utility man sitting at the end of the bench too.
Owners once chided players that it was a privilege to be in the game; Miller told his clients it was their right to earn a decent living wage in that game.
Marvin Miller may be gone, but Marvin Miller should never be forgotten.
What do you think, Southwest Riverside? Was Marvin Miller an enemy or icon to Major League Baseball? Tell me in the comments section below: