SBD/November 28, 2012/People and Pop Culture

Marvin Miller Was "Transformative" Leader As Founder And Exec Dir Of MLBPA

Miller oversaw the first work stoppage in modern baseball history in '72
Former MLBPA Exec Dir MARVIN MILLER passed away yesterday at the age of 95, and several columnists have paid tribute to his role in professional sports. USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale writes Miller “never put on a baseball uniform, scouted or coached, but he might have been the most influential sports figure in the last 50 years.” Baseball HOFer REGGIE JACKSON said, “He was not JACKIE ROBINSON, and BABE RUTH may have been the most impactful athlete in history, but then you have to look at Marvin Miller. I don’t think anyone understood his vision, because he was so far ahead of everyone else.” Baseball HOFer and HOF Vice Chair JOE MORGAN said, “I think of him as Jackie Robinson. … The right guy for us” (USA TODAY, 11/28). In L.A., Steve Dilbeck writes Miller “just might have been the most influential man in sports history,” and he changed “not only the face of baseball -- for which he is often given credit -- but all American professional sports.” Credit Miller for “making owners understand that players are partners in the game” (L.A. TIMES, 11/28). SI.com’s Tom Verducci wrote, “Since Jackie Robinson in 1947, nobody impacted the game more than Miller, and of the many sonic booms he unleashed upon the hidebound game of baseball, free agency and the nearly perfect structure of it stand today as the most profound” (SI.com, 11/27). In a special to the N.Y. TIMES, former MLB Commissioner FAY VINCENT writes Miller was the “most important figure in baseball in the last 40 years, yet many fans may not recognize his name.” Miller and his successors, DONALD FEHR and MICHAEL WEINER, created a union “that stands as a model. Their union is brilliantly led, honestly managed and extremely successful.” It is “not possible to ignore Miller’s achievements” (N.Y. TIMES, 11/28).

LASTING LEGACY: ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said Miller was the "most important man in the history of athletes and contracts" and was the "most influential leader ever" of the MLBPA ("PTI," ESPN, 11/27). SI.com’s Jay Jaffe wrote Miller “revolutionized the game, overseeing its biggest change since integration via the dismantling of the reserve clause and the dawn of free agency” (SI.com, 11/27). In DC, Thomas Boswell writes Miller’s impact “outweighs that of any one athlete, owner or commissioner of my time” (WASHINGTON POST, 11/28). In N.Y., Michael O’Keeffe writes it is “hard to overstate” the influence that Miller had “on the business of sports” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/28). NBC News' Brian Williams said Miller was, "by any standard, a game changer" ("Nightly News," NBC, 11/27). NBCSPORTS.com’s Craig Calcaterra wrote Miller was a “truly transformative figure who, after Jackie Robinson, did more to correct the excesses and injustices delivered onto players by baseball’s ruling class than anyone” (NBCSPORTS.com, 11/27). In Chicago, Phil Rosenthal writes if Miller “wasn't the father of free agency for athletes in sports, he was the midwife who finally found a way to deliver on the long-unfulfilled promise” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/28). In Boston, Nick Cafardo writes fans now have the “Hot Stove” season because of Miller. There is “interest in the game when it isn’t even being played on the field.” Miller is why news organizations “spend millions of dollars covering offseason news, with significant players changing teams as free agents” (BOSTON GLOBE ,11/28).

MAKING AN IMPACT: SI.com’s Jon Wertheim noted by the time Miller left office in ’83, he had “singlehandedly changed the landscape.” The MLBPA had become “one of the most powerful labor unions not just in sports but in all of American industry, a model for how a unified bargaining unit with relentless leadership could gain concessions” (SI.com, 11/27). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes Miller had “turned a weak players union into a ferocious and wealthy labor force that transformed the sport’s economics” (N.Y. TIMES, 11/28). ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark wrote Miller was “never afraid to fight any battle, to take on any naysayer, to do what needed to be done.” Stark: “And if you were on the other side of any of those battles, whooh. Good luck to you” (ESPN.com, 11/27). ESPN.com’s Lester Munson wrote, “No one looked less like a stereotypical labor leader than Miller, but no one could project the message of the labor movement more persuasively or more eloquently” (ESPN.com, 11/27). In N.Y., Mike Lupica writes no matter “how hard the strike or how long it lasted, Miller held all the players together.” They were “going up against rich and powerful men used to having their way, and somehow Miller always kept the members of his union in line, in this flinty, relentless, honorable way” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/28). Baseball HOFer BERT BLYLEVEN said, "The thing about Marvin is he knew what direction baseball was headed as far as finances and the economy. The owners were definitely in charge. He tried to change that, where the players had some rights. He was a pioneer for the players. He was the leader. He brought unity to the players association” (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 11/28).

DEBT OF GRATITUDE: In Toronto, Dave Perkins writes it might be “impossible to overstate Miller’s impact on baseball and, by association both figuratively and literally, all of pro sport.” Whatever rights and benefits modern athletes enjoy “exist as a direct result of Miller’s time as the head of the baseball players’ union” (TORONTO STAR, 11/28). SportsNet N.Y.'s Jonas Schwartz said, "Pro sports wouldn't be what it is today without Marvin Miller" ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 11/27). MLB Network's Chris Rose said, "Baseball changed because of Marvin Miller. The sports landscape, in general, has changed because of Marvin Miller as well" ("Intentional Talk," MLB Network, 11/27). In N.Y., Richard Goldstein writes by the end of Miller’s tenure, he had “secured his place on baseball’s Mount Rushmore by forging one of the strongest unions in America, creating a model for those in basketball, football and hockey” (N.Y. TIMES, 11/28). On Long Island, David Lennon writes the “debt of gratitude” owed to Miller is “impossible to calculate” (NEWSDAY, 11/28).

A LIFE REMEMBERED: Miller was profiled by SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Bill King in April '11 as part of SBJ's "Champions" program. Former MLBer BOB LOCKER said, "Marvin Miller is a giant. The impact he's had on all of professional sports -- not just baseball, all sports -- is amazing."

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