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Former MLBPA executive director Miller elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

The late Marvin Miller, former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association

The late Marvin Miller, former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association and one of the most influential figures in the sport’s history, was finally elected December 8 to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the institution’s Modern Era Committee.

Miller, who led the players’ union from 1966 until his retirement in 1982, was a key figure in helping usher in free agency to baseball in the mid 1970s and move the sport past decades-long use of a hotly debated reserve clause system that tied players to their teams, was likened in many corners to indentured servitude, and was the subject of a US Supreme Court case.

During Miller’s tenure, he grew average player salaries by about a factor of 10, led to the players to their first collective bargaining agreement with team owners, and he helped implement a wide series of other advancements for players including salary arbitration and improved pension benefits. Despite a series of constant labor battles with MLB management, several work stoppages, and owner fears of economic ruin due to the arrival of free agency, baseball attendance and revenue also soared to new highs during Miller’s era. 

Miller’s election to the Hall of Fame, however, for years has been a controversial subject. He had been on various Hall of Fame ballots seven times before, each time failing to reach the needed 75 per cent threshold for election, including a 2011 vote that left him just one vote short. 

Though the specific reasons for keeping Miller out for years were never detailed, it’s long been suspected that a heavy concentration of team owners and other management figures on voting committees and a lingering resentment toward Miller were key factors, as he and the MLBPA repeatedly beat management at the negotiation table.

And in a seeming further rebuke to Miller, the late former MLB commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who in particular was an unsuccessful foil to Miller and the MLBPA in multiple rounds of labor bargaining, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2008. 

Prior to Miller’s death in 2012 at the age of 95, he said he no longer wanted to be considered for the Hall of Fame, and did not want to be inducted posthumously. But given he remains one of the most impactful figures ever in baseball, it would ultimately be impossible for the institution to tell a full story of the sport’s history without Miller. 

“Players are pleased that Marvin will now take his rightful and long overdue place in the Hall of Fame in recognition of the monumental and positive impact he had on our game and our industry,” said Tony Clark, the MLBPA’s current executive director.

The Modern Era Committee this time was comprised of just one former team owner, along with five baseball operations executives, four media members, and six Hall of Fame players. Miller received 12 of 16 votes from the panel, garnering exactly the 75 per cent support needed. He will be joined in the Hall of Fame’s 2020 induction class by former player Ted Simmons, who received 13 votes from the committee. 

“Marvin Miller and the Hall of Fame are a perfect union,” said prominent baseball player agent Scott Boras. “The integrity of the Hall has been fortified. Finally baseball’s greatest visionary is in his rightful home.”

The rest of the Hall of Fame class will be revealed next month with voting results from the Baseball Writers Association of America. Former New York Yankees shortstop and current Miami Marlins chief executive Derek Jeter is a lock to be selected in that vote.

The Hall of Fame, meanwhile, recently detailed financial results of $17.1m in revenue and $3.99m in profit for 2018.