Those who study and follow the business side of sports are remembering the impact that Marvin Miller had on baseball and professional sports in general upon learning of his death earlier this week. Miller, the father of free agency in Major League Baseball, died on Nov. 27 at the age of 95.
As the president of the Major League Baseball Players Association from 1966 to 1982, Miller had a considerable hand in shaping the current landscape for players. His fight against baseball’s antitrust exemption has forever changed not only baseball, but other professional sports as well.
Labor relations expert Braham Dabsheck was among those who mourned the passing of Miller. Dabscheck recently published Reading Baseball: Books, Biographies, and the Business of the Game. In his book, Dabsheck often references the importance Miller had in changing the rights of players, including the introduction of player free agency, a grievance procedure, and the sport’s first collective bargaining agreement.
“The Major League Baseball Players Association, under Miller’s leadership, transformed baseball industrial relations—virtually turned it on its head,” Dabsheck wrote in Reading Baseball (p. 13).
On the day of Miller’s death, Dabscheck, a senior fellow in the Faculty of Law at the University of Melbourne, provided a personal account of his memory of Miller.
“I corresponded with him on a number of occasions in the 1970s when I was embarking on my research into the operation of professional team sports,” Dabsheck said. “He was always helpful and encouraged me in my research. He was interested to learn that I was able to demonstrate how employment rules in Australian football, similar to those in baseball, were inconsistent with the attainment of sporting equality.
“It is clear that he was the most important figure in the history of baseball from the 1960s on. He not only transformed the economic lot of baseball players, but also those of other team sports. He has also been an inspiration for a number of leaders of Australian player associations.”