Thursday, June 14, 2007

Curtis Charles Flood

Born on January 18, 1938 in Houston, Texas. As a youth he moved to Oakland, CA and was signed in 1956 by the Cincinnati Redlegs. (The Reds signed another Oakland star on the rise, in 1956, by the name of Vada Pinson.)

In 1957 the Reds traded Curt Flood with Joe Taylor to the St. Louis Cardinals for Marty Kutyna, Ted Wieand and Willard Schmidt. (Gee, Giants' fans gotta shake their heads knowing that the Cardinals once again got the better end of the deal...Orlando Cepeda...Jack Clark..)

In St. Louis, Curt Flood wore the number #21. Flood would bat .300 six (6) times and earn seven (7) consecutive Golden Gloves from 1963 thru 1969 inclusive.

In 1964 he led the National League in hits with 211.

And after a stellar career with the St. Louis Cardinals they traded #21 along with Byron Browne (OF), Joe Hoerner (P) and Tim McCarver (C) to the Philadelphia Phillies for Jerry Johnson (who would later pitch for the San Francisco Giants), (INF) Cookie Rojas and (1B) Richie "Dick" Allen.

But Curtis Charles Flood refused to go. (St. Louis would later trade Bob Browning and (1B)
Willie Montanez -another who would play for the Giants- to complete the trade.)

He believed that major league baseball's decades old reserve clause was unfair in that it kept players beholden for life to the team with whom they originally signed, even when they had satisfied the terms and conditions of those contracts.

When Flood initially contacted Marvin Miller, Miller warned him that the commissioner would deny his suit.

If he pursued and possibly won a court challenge, the lengthy appeals process would exhaust his playing career and his defiance would shatter any hope of future employment in the industry. Reluctantly, because he could not oppose the principle of a worker's right to choose his employer, Miller recommended that the union pay Flood's legal and travel-related expenses, if not his living expenses.

Los Angeles Dodger delegate, Tom Haller (former Giant player who would become a Giant GM after this stunt) bluntly posed the question, "Are you doing this simply because you're black and you feel baseball has been discriminatory?"

The executive board voted unanimously to back Flood's case. Miller then arranged for Flood to be represented by former Steelworkers' Superior and US Supreme Court Justice, Arthur Goldberg. Goldberg offered to accept the case pro bono to ease a potential drain on the association's cash reserves.

Flood's case was in 1970. And even though he lost because it was ruled that Commissioner Bowie Kuhn acted the way he did for the good of the game, Flood opened the eyes and ears of everyone associated with professional sports in North America.

In 1975, the reserve clause was struck down when arbiter, Peter Seitz, ruled that since pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally played for one season without a contract they could become free agents. This decision essentially dismantled the reserve clause and opened the door to widespread free agency.

Curtis Charles Flood died on January 20, 1997, two days after his 59th birthday.
He fought for something he believed in and now every professional athlete has it better because of him.

Curtis Charles Flood deserves to be in the Hall of Fame because of what he accomplished as a player and as a person who fought for what he believed to be an unfairness in the system and risked his career in sticking up for his beliefs.

The Hall of Fame is all about individuals whose presence changed the way things were done.
How players raised the bar of efficiency to a new level not yet seen before they came along.
Curt Flood changed the way the game is managed in the front office. His efforts have made it so much better for each and every player who is/was skilled enough to attract some interest from a major league/professional franchise.

Curt Flood raised the bar, set a new standard for how players should be treated. He carried on Jackie Roosevelt Robinson's name the way #42 would have wanted. He didn't get credit for being the one who introduced someone into a league- that up until then hadn't allowed people of that certain someone's ethnicity- the way Branch Rickey did. He put his own career on the line to open the eyes of others.

kevin marquez

(Some of my notes are from Wikipedia and also from a book entitled: Much More Than A Game: Players, Owners and American baseball since 1921. by Robert F. Burk.)