(October 26, 2010) Last evening I attended a talk at Skidmore College by Rick Shapiro, Senior Executive at the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). Over the course of a fascinating evening, Rick’s presentation and discussion provided numerous insights into the business of sport and the business of baseball. In response to one student’s question, Rick stated his belief that the three most important people in baseball history were Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, and Marvin Miller.
As most readers of this blog will know, Ruth was a charter member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY, inducted in its inaugural 1939 class, and Robinson was a first ballot inductee who famously broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947 and was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America in 1962.
Marvin Miller, however, has yet to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Why has the Hall of Fame not honored Miller? A little history here will bring the issue to light – a history with which those in professional baseball are well acquainted: Miller was the original Executive Director of MLBPA, serving from 1966 through 1983. He transformed the association into a bona fide labor union; then, gradually, into one of the strongest collective bargaining units in the United States. The prior statement, essentially from the MLBPA web site, says it all about Miller’s place in professional baseball history, particularly as MLBPA is a very strong entity and, in most minds, the strongest of the major sport players’ unions. Miller, working with the players, broke the owners’ absolute control over baseball players’ careers, and, in the end, established free agency in baseball as we know it today. Prior to his efforts, the Major League Baseball teams had total control over player movement.
Back to the original question: Why has the Hall of Fame not honored Miller? In the past the election process for executives included a significant number of major league executives, enough so Miller failed to meet the required 75% of ballots cast to be elected. Just this past July the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum announced new procedures for the consideration of managers, umpires, executives and long-retired players. The new procedure for the election of executives will continue to include major league executives on the 16-person selection committee. Will they constitute more than 25% of the committee and continue to, as some observers believe, block Miller’s election? The first answer to that question may be revealed when the Hall of Fame releases the Expansion Era Ballot this month. Will Miller’s name appear on this ballot? If so then the follow-on questions include: What will be the exact composition of the committee? One would think the Hall of Fame players on the committee would all vote for Miller, but will all the historians and veteran media members? And if they all were to vote for Miller, are there 12 of them so he reaches the Hall of Fame 75% criteria, assuming the major league executives will continue to not vote for Miller?
Stay tuned for the Hall of Fame’s ballot announcement and, if Miller is included on the ballot, the eventual election results. The ballot is due to be announced any day now and the selection committee will meet and vote during Major League Baseball’s Winter Meeting in December.
And think about how any Hall of Fame considers controversial figures within its purview. Does your process place the consideration of those individuals under conflict of interest threat? How can your Hall of Fame create a fair process that keeps personal or professional animosities from being a part of the election or selection process? Time will tell whether their new procedure will meet that goal for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, but are you thinking about it for your Hall of Fame as well?
Read more of Miller’s biography here.