Marvin Miller was a labor economist who never played a day of organized baseball. He preferred tennis. Yet he transformed the national pastime as surely as Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, television and night games.
Miller, the union boss who won free agency for baseball players in 1975, ushering in an era of multimillion-dollar contracts and athletes who switch teams at the drop of a batting helmet, died Tuesday at 95. He had been diagnosed with liver cancer in August.
“I think he’s the most important baseball figure of the last 50 years,” former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent said. “He changed not just the sport but the business of the sport permanently, and he truly emancipated the baseball player — and in the process all professional athletes. Prior to his time, they had few rights. At the moment, they control the games.”
In his 16 1/2 years as executive director of the Major League Players Association, starting in 1966, Miller fought owners on many fronts, not only achieving free agency but making the word “strike” stand for something other than a pitched ball.
Over the years, his influence was widely acknowledged if not always honored. Baseball fans argue over whether he made the game fairer or more nakedly mercenary, and the Hall of Fame repeatedly rejected him in what was attributed to lingering resentment among team owners.
• Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa are set to show up on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time, and fans will soon find out whether drug allegations block the former stars from reaching baseball’s shrine.
The 2013 ballot will be announced today.
Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling are certain to be among the other first-time eligibles. Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines are the top holdover candidates.
Longtime members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America will vote through next month. The much-awaited results will be announced Jan. 9, with players needing to be listed on 75 percent of the ballots to gain induction.
The upcoming election is certain to fuel the most polarizing Hall debate since career hits leader Pete Rose’s betting problems put him on baseball’s permanently ineligible list, barring him from the BBWAA ballot.
Bonds, Clemens and Sosa each posted some of the biggest numbers in the game’s history, but all were tainted by accusations that they used performance-enhancing drugs.
• All-Star Philies catcher Carlos Ruiz was suspended Tuesday for the first 25 games of next season following a positive test for an amphetamine. The 33-year-old catcher had a career year in 2012, hitting .325 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 114 games.
• The Big East moved quickly to replace Rutgers and braced for more possible departures, getting Tulane and East Carolina to agree to join the re-invented conference in 2014.
Tulane, in New Orleans, and East Carolina, in Greenville, N.C., will make it six Conference USA schools to join the Big East in the last two years. Rutgers announced a week ago that it would leave the Big East for the Big Ten.