Fifty Years Ago Today Curt Flood Sued MLB Trying To End The Reserve Clause

Flood and Gardella’s Stories Should Be Part Of Cooperstown.

With the announcement that the founder of the present-day Major-League Baseball Players Association Marvin Miller is getting a plaque in Baseball’s Hall of Fame later this summer, there has been a suggestion that Curt Flood should also get a Hall of Fame honor. Flood was a very good player in the 1950s and 1960s but he is remembered for filing a one-million-dollar lawsuit against Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and the 24 Major League Baseball clubs on January 16, 1970. Flood was traded from St. Louis to Philadelphia in December 1969. He refused to accept the trade. Flood claimed that he could not play baseball where he wanted because of the industry’s reserve clause which kept a player tied to an organization in perpetuity or until a team got rid of the player. Flood would ultimately lose the suit on June 19, 1972 when the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 in Major League Baseball’s favor. Flood did not end baseball’s reserve clause but he challenged the status quo. That may not rise to Hall of Fame level but the Cooperstown museum should have a labor section and tell the stories of Flood and Danny Gardella. Gardella sued baseball because he was blackballed.

Gardella signed with the Mexican League in 1946 after the New York Giants sent him to the minor leagues. Gardella wanted to return to the United States to play after the 1947 season along with others who went to the Mexican League. Baseball Commissioner Happy Chandler slammed the door in the players’ faces. Gardella sued claiming the reserve clause was the problem. In 1948 a federal judge dismissed the case but in 1949 an appeals court reinstated the case and ordered a full trial. Baseball settled with Gardella and the others. Flood played for Washington in 1971. If Curt Flood eventually gets a Cooperstown honor so should Danny Gardella.

Feb. 25, 2003, Marvin Miller (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)