marvin miller

Note: We must apologize in advance for the sound quality on this audio recording.  We attempted some different phone options but had to settle on this.  This conversation about the book The Imperfect Diamond is so good that we decided to release the podcast as is ….

We are happy to have a return visit by Lee Lowenfish on Cover the Bases.  During our previous conversation we discussed his great biography called Branch Rickey: Baseball’s Ferocious Gentleman.  On this episode, the award winning author sheds some light on the updated and revised look at baseball’s labor struggles in his book called The Imperfect Diamond: A History of Baseball’s Labor Wars.

The book was originally released in 1980, updated in 1991 prior to the player’s strike of ’94 which canceled the World Series, and finally now with a long view look at the history of labor relations.  The book is published by Bison Books.

As a way to understand the issues that were addressed in each of the editions, we break down each release of the book.

In the first edition, Lee explains that one of his great pleasures was the exposure of John Montgomery Ward and his attempts at developing the Players League.  He was a great player on the Giants at the turn of the Century and was able to get many star players of the day including Connie Mack and Clark Griffith, to force a confrontation with the baseball owners (moguls as they are referred to – a great term for them).  The players jumped to a league that allowed better contractual arrangements but played only one season in 1890.

The first edition carries on the challenges and injustices for the players including returning war veterans who lost their jobs on ballclubs even in the face of the Veterans Act protecting their jobs. Players such as Tony Lupien, Al Niemiec and Bob Murphy had limited recourse when they reported to their old clubs after serving their country, only to find another player had taken their place.

Finally, the book finishes up with the two pivotal decisions that paved the way for a leveling of the playing field between the owners and the players.  Lee addresses the Curt Flood appeal to the Supreme Court, lost in a 5-3 decision which upheld his trade from the St Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies. Curt never reported, believing that he was being treated as “a piece of property” which ended his playing career, but effectively dismantle the prevailing Reserve Clause that had appeared in 100 years of baseball contracts. This paved the way to the final chapter of the first edition, Free Agency for Dave McNally and Andy Messersmith in 1975.

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