The Baseball Writers’ Association of America holds an election every December for the purpose of selecting former players, managers and executives to the National Baseball Hall of Fame that made a significant impact on the game of baseball. For the very few that make it into the HOF it is a time of joy, but for the majority of others it is a time of disappointment. Marvin Miller, who led the MLB Players’ Association from 1966-81 and whose work to help baseball players gain free agency revolutionized sports, missed out again on induction for the fifth time. He is neither surprised nor disappointed with their decision because he expected it all along. Miller expected the BBWAA’s decision because many of the people on the panel fought the union he built and lost many battles to the MLBPA, and denying him entrance into the HOF is just a case of political payback. He received 11 votes, one short of the needed 75 percent, from the 16-man Veterans Committee. After getting denied for the fourth time a couple of years back, Miller approached the HOF Committee and asked them to take his name off of the list, but against his wishes they kept his name on the ballot so they can drag him through yet another defeat.
Miller, 93, is the greatest labor figure in sports history. Not only did Miller usher in an era of free agency, he was responsible for leveling the playing field between owners and players. Free agency led to interest in the game year round, which led to more overall interest in the sport. Television ratings increased, players made more money and fans started attending more games. Baseball’s attendance figures were 30 million in the early ‘70s when Miller started his rise to power, and they’re many times that now. Even though he may not make it into Baseball’s Hall of Fame during his lifetime, or ever for that matter, Miller can sleep comfortably at night knowing that his impact on the game is greater than having a bronze plaque of him hanging in some museum in Cooperstown.
Marvin Miller joined KFNS in St. Louis to talk about his thoughts on not making it into the Hall of Fame, what he would tell the HOF Committee if he was trying to persuade them to let him in, and whether there is a part of him that thinks he doesn’t want to be on the HOF ballot anymore.
His thoughts on not making it into the Hall of Fame:
“Well I don’t want to brag but I seem to be able to count votes before most people. I didn’t think it was going to happen and I was right.”
What his overall feeling is about not making it into the Hall of Fame:
“Disappointment to me means you expected something and you didn’t get it. I expected nothing and that is what I got.”
On the notion that if there were five people against him on the HOF Committee that he wouldn’t get the necessary votes:
“That is exactly right, and this is not new. You have to remember two years ago when the committee was only 12 people instead of 16, and needed nine. Seven of them were management and so they maintain a veto at all times.”
What he would tell the HOF Committee if he was trying to persuade them to let him in:
“I don’t think I would tell them anything. I believe if there are honors to be bestowed you don’t plead your case, you don’t lobby, you don’t ask other people to lobby for you. If it is going to be based on your record the record is public, and it would go against my grain to sit down and make a case. I don’t think I would be able to do it.”
Whether there is a part of him that thinks he doesn’t want to be on the HOF ballot anymore:
“You have to remember two years ago I asked them to take me off the ballot and they refused. I thought I was giving them an easy way out; they get criticized for not electing me and so on. I thought by asking them to take me off the ballot it would be simple, and say, ‘What did you want us to do? He didn’t want to be on the ballot.’ Instead they got their backs up. They gave a public interview, the president of the whole thing, they did a public interview saying, ‘He can’t tell us what to do?’ I wasn’t telling him what to do I was telling him what not to do.”
What he would say to the critics blaming him for the high-priced salaries in baseball today:
“It’s very simple. These are people who don’t know what the facts are. When the union started, all of the major league clubs combined had total revenue of under $50 million a year. That was ‘million’ with an ‘m’. Last year it was almost $7 billion, and now that is ‘billion’ with a ‘b’. So the amount of money the clubs have left over, even after paying these much higher salaries, it is billions more than before the union.”