Story of the Week



    What one player has had more of an impact on major league baseball than any other player? There is only one right answer; it is Curt Flood.


    Every major league baseball player should own and cherish a picture of Curt Flood, and keep it in his wallet. The wallet is the most appropriate place to store that picture. Curt Flood is personally responsible for making very mediocre players millionaires, and good players zillionaires, and he did it at his own expense.


    And where should team owners keep his picture? On the nearest wall, where they can throw darts at it.


    Curt Flood played in the major leagues for eight games in 1956 and 1957. Cincinnati brought Flood up from the minors at the end of each of those seasons. He was then traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, and was their regular centerfielder from 1958 thru 1969. He sat out 1970 (read on), and retired from baseball with Washington after 13 games into the 1971 season.


    Flood was an outstanding defensive centerfielder. He won the Gold Glove Award seven times while with the Cardinals. At one stretch, he went 226 games without an error. He had a lifetime batting average of .293. Flood is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but based on the fact that other players with far less impressive stats make it, he certainly does belong there.


    So what was the great impact Flood had on major league baseball? In those days, when a player signed with a team, he was owned by that team for life unless the team traded him. He couldn’t play out his contract and then make a deal with another team. The teams that owned the players then had no competition from other teams for the services of their players. The teams dictated the salaries of the players period. The owners were in full and complete control of their players.


    When Flood was traded by the Cardinals to Philadelphia after the 1969 season, he refused to go. This was unheard of then. He wanted St. Louis to give him his outright release; they would not.


    So Flood challenged the "reserve clause" on the basis that people in the work force can go from one company to another whenever they so desire, and baseball players who play out their contracts should be able to do the same thing. He lost his case in the Supreme Court on the basis of baseball’s antitrust exemption.


    But he fought it again at the Supreme Court level, got the union involved, and that led to the decision in 1975 by an arbitrator that caused the magic words "free agency." (Note that this decision has impacted other sports as well.)


    Major league baseball's average salary 25 years ago in the last season before "free agency" was a $51,501. Baseball's average salary in 2001 was $2,138,896. This monumental increase in players salaries is all because of Curt Flood. It was Curt Flood who freed the baseball slaves! Yet it is sad indeed that most, if not all, modern-day players who make millions of dollars because of "free agency" and its negotiating power would be unable to tell you who Curt Flood was.


Last Week’s Trivia


    Babe Ruth is credited with having hit 714 career home runs. That is not accurate. He actually hit 715 home runs. Can you explain the homer not accounted for? In those days, if the home team won in the ninth inning or extra innings, a home run didn’t count if the winning run scored ahead of it. Ruth lost one homer this way, in 1918, as a member of the Boston Red Sox.


Trivia Question of the Week


    Who caught the first Super Bowl touchdown pass? Who scored the first Super Bowl rushing touchdown? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.