Edson: Hall of Fame is a Joke Without Marvin Miller

If you love baseball – which I do – there is nothing better than watching the Hall of Fame induction ceremony from Cooperstown, New York on the last Sunday in July.

This past Sunday, we watched former Tigers catcher Pudge Rodriguez join the Hall on his first try. He was joined by Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell.

One of the other non-players enshrined was former Milwaukee Brewers owner and baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

He joins a growing list of former owners inducted into the Hall of Fame. It’s sad, really.

Owners like Selig and Hall member George Steinbrenner fought tooth and nail against a person who should have been in Cooperstown way before they were – Marvin Miller.

The late Miller remains on the outside looking in. And just who was Marvin Miller?

Consider this, the great announcer Red Barber, whose watched baseball from the 1920s through the 1990s, said in 1992: “Marvin Miller, along with Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, were the three most important men in baseball history.”

We know all about Ruth and Robinson. Marvin Miller isn’t in the Hall of Fame because he fought baseball’s owner over what is known as the reserve clause. In effect, it allowed players to become free agents.

It started with the case of St. Louis Cardinals all-star outfielder Curt Flood. He had been traded to the Philadelphia Phillies because he had upset Cardinals ownership with talk of choosing the team he would play for.

Flood didn’t win his case but Miller and the player’s association opened the door to two very important concerns: Players earning the right, after a certain period of time, to choose who they would play for and getting the owners to open up their books.

When those books were opened, the public was shocked at the amount of money owners were making while paying the players poorly.

Joe Torre, who works for the commissioner’s office now, is a strong advocate for Marvin Miller to get into the Hall of Fame. Torre was one of the player representatives during the 1970s.

“Marvin was a groundbreaker,” said Torre. “Players of my era and the players of today should appreciate the benefits that resulted in Marvin’s leadership. I was proud to be one of the players who sat alongside him. He absolutely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.”

Ironically, because of Miller’s efforts, Pudge Rodriguez joined the Tigers as a free agent and helped turn the franchise around after a 119-loss season.

Without the credibility of a player like Rodriguez, the Tigers never would have made it to the World Series in 2006.

So it was with a degree of irony that I watched the 2017 Hall of Fame ceremonies.

There was Bud Selig getting into the Hall because the baseball establishment was crowning one of its own.

But there was Pudge Rodriguez, who with the help of a man like Marvin Miller, helped turn the Detroit Tigers around long before they otherwise would have righted the ship.

Even former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent knows where Miller stands in baseball history.

“I think he’s the most important baseball figure of the last 50 years,” said Vincent. “He changed not just the sport but the business of sports permanently – and he truly emancipated the ball player.”

And for that, baseball’s power brokers have blocked Marvin Miller from his rightful place in Cooperstown.

Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.