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Monday, January 18, 2016

Martin Luther King - How About Curt Flood?

Curt Flood

Curt Flood was an all-star major league baseball player during my youthful years in the 1960s. He batted over .300 many years - and earned 7 golden gloves for playing centerfield.

It is a shame that he is not honored more - in some ways he helped people of color - not as much as Martin Luther King - but his influence put an end to some of the last vestiges of slavery.

In the 1950s and 1960s - it was easy to remember the names of the papers on the big league teams. First there were only 8 National League teams and 8 American League teams. Second - once a player signed with a team - they became an indentured servant. They could not play for a another team. They were traded like cattle.

In 1970 - Flood was earning $90,000. It sounded like a lot of money. My first teacher salary in 1970 was $6500. Then the Cardinals wanted to trade him to the last place Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies played in Connie Mack Stadium which was considered a dump at the time. The fans there were famous for racist behavior - they gave Jackie Robinson tons of grief - and ran rookie of the year Richie Allen out of town. Curt chose to not play in Philly. He sent a letter to Commissioner Bowie Kuhn asking to be made a free agent.

Flood took Major League Baseball to court - he lost in the preliminary rounds - but eventually thanks to his law suit - players were given free agent status. Today - there is a federal law saying that baseball players are free to deal with other teams. The reserved clause was eliminated.

During Flood's law suit - no other players testified on his behalf. Today - some players earn over $20 million a season. His influence has made many football - basketball - hockey - soccer  players multi-millionaires. It all started with one brave man saying he didn't want to play in Philadelphia.

We need a Curt Flood Day.

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