Miller was the right guy.
That was the week that was in Major League Baseball circles. It started out on Sunday with the announcement that the founder of the present-day Major-League Baseball Players Association Marvin Miller was elected to the industry’s Cooperstown Hall of Fame. Then the Washington Nationals and New York Yankees showed the world just how much money is available in the baseball industry by giving out a pair of contracts to two pitchers worth more than a half billion dollars. The spending took place despite Major League Baseball owners carping about spending too much money on Minor League baseball player development.
Marvin Miller was not the first choice to run the Major League Baseball Players Association. A trio of 1950s-1960s era players, Jim Bunning, Harvey Kuenn and Robin Roberts went looking for someone to run the association in 1966. Roberts called an economics profession at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and presidential advisor George Taylor asking for some names. Taylor had two people in mind. Lane Kirkland and Marvin Miller. Eventually Taylor called Roberts back and told him Kirkland who was an executive assistant at the AFL-CIO was uninterested. But Marvin Miller wanted to talk to the players. Roberts never met Taylor in person. Miller got the job in 1966 as the association’s executive director but some players were skeptical that Miller was the right guy. The 1960s era players were concerned with three areas. Salaries, pensions and licensing dollars. Miller survived a contentious start in 1967 and was able to convince the players to stick together and negotiate better deals for pensions, licensing dollars and salaries. Miller led the players through work stoppages but was able to get free agency and higher salaries by the end of the 1970s. Salaries, pensions and licensing problems are no longer.