|A MAN OF CONVICTION AND HONOR.|
|CLEMENTE MATCHED FLOOD'S HIT TOTAL IN '64.|
THE FRONT PAGE
- No athlete had more courage than Curt Flood. He sacrificed his career to challenge the reserve clause in baseball, which tied you to an organization for life or until you were traded or released. Flood didn't think it was humane to treat players like slaves and took a very unpopular stand, refusing to join the Phillies after being traded following the '69 season.
- While the late Marvin Miller deservedly has been getting a lot of Hall of Fame buzz recently for his role in helping players achieve their current status, Flood's sacrifice meant even more. He has a case for the Hall as well.
THE BACK PAGE
- It's appropriately raining baseballs on Flood's card.
- He was putting together some nice stat lines entering the '65 season.
- A nice head-and-shoulders batting pose that captures the intensity of a complex man.
- Flood, a Civil Rights activist, was the star center fielder of the talented '60s Cardinals, but his life began to change in Game 7 of the '68 World Series. He misjudged Jim Northrup's seventh-inning drive in a scoreless game, and the rare misplay allowed two runs to score; the Tigers ended up winning 4-1.
- He had won the previous five Gold Glove Awards and would win a sixth after the season.
- His relationship with Cardinals owner Augie Busch began to erode early next season when he asked for a raise, which back then was akin to spitting in the owner's face. After sniping back and forth and the Cardinals' disappointing fourth-place finish in the newly created NL East, Flood was traded to the Phillies for basically Dick Allen. Thus the stage was set for Flood v. Kuhn.
- Miller told Flood he ''didn't have a chance in hell'' of winning and his career would be ruined either way. Flood asked if his litigation would help current and future players. He was told it would. "That's good enough for me.''
- He was "a union-leader's dream,'' Miller would say years later.
- He got no support from current players because all feared retribution from the owners. Jackie Robinson and Hank Greenberg supported him, however. The Supreme Court ruled 5-3 in favor of the owners in '72, so it was closer than Miller expected.
- The Court basically sided with Flood but said free agency had to be won through collective bargaining, and the antitrust exemption had to be repealed by Congress. The pressure the case brought against the owners greased the skids for free agency that was attained a few years later.
- Flood did get back on the field in '71 after being traded to the Senators, but by then he was out of shape and mentally whipped from the continuing legal fight. He retired after 13 games. He finished his career a three-time All-Star and a .293 hitter.
- I think he could've made a run at 3,000 hits if he didn't fight baseball.
- He died in '97 from pneumonia brought on after getting throat cancer.
- I had a chance to meet Flood and get his autograph at an old-timers show. I could pistol whip myself now. I really didn't know his story that well and of course didn't grasp his impact on the game. Oh, to be young and incredibly stupid.
- If you get a chance to watch the HBO documentary The Curious Case of Curt Flood (trailer and selected scenes below), please do so. It does a better job than I in telling his tragic story.
''I am pleased God made by skin black, but I wish He had made it thicker.''