[Marvin] Miller’s lifetime, which lasted 95 years and eight months, ended last Tuesday. If he is elected next year, when he will next be eligible, the election would be a meaningless gesture. There is, however, an idea to honor Miller that would not be meaningless. It comes from a former colleague at The New York Times.
“All teams should wear a black ‘MM’ on uniform sleeves next season,” Ray Corio wrote in an e-mail “in memory of and appreciation for the guy whose impact on the game was as great as Babe or Jackie.” ...
If election had come in a timely manner, I think Miller would have felt honored. I also think he stopped caring about it after his wife, Terry, died three years ago.
Who was this man who arrived at the union in 1966 from the United Steelworkers Union, where he was the chief economist under the noted labor leader David McDonald, and turned the M.L.B.P.A. into a formidable example for all other sports unions to follow and make non-sports unions envious?
This was Marvin Miller: “In the beginning,” said Richard Moss, the union’s general counsel, “Marvin thought it was important to gain credibility, and that’s why we ended up on the top of the Seagram Building.”
This was Marvin Miller: “My first week there, in August 1977,” recalled Donald Fehr, Moss’s successor, “we went to lunch and Marvin said, ‘You know, you have a nice title, general counsel. I have a nice title, executive director. None of that means anything. We’re just staff. The owners care only about the players.”
As the union’s lawyers, Moss and Fehr were Miller’s closest colleagues during his 17 years as executive director. Moss, who worked with Miller in Pittsburgh as a USW lawyer, joined him in New York after Miller rejected the idea of Richard Nixon, then the former vice president, as his general counsel.
While Miller provided the labor expertise, Moss contributed the legal strategy that produced union victories in the Catfish Hunter breach-of-contract and the Messersmith-McNally free-agency grievances.
Fehr, a Kansas City lawyer, met Miller and Moss when they hired him to serve as local counsel in the owners’ futile appeal in Federal District Court of the Peter Seitz decision in Messersmith-McNally. When Moss decided in 1977 to leave the union and become a player agent, Miller hired Fehr to replace him. ...
Moss Klein, a retired baseball writer with the Newark Star-Ledger, commented on Miller’s speaking ability in an e-mail, writing, “I admired the way he could explain the most complicated things so simply, making them so understandable, while Ray Grebey (and others) made the simplest things so complicated and incomprehensible”
As true as these views are, I have to admit that the first time I encountered Miller I had no idea what he was saying.
I was a young reporter with the Associated Press in Pittsburgh in 1962, and I was assigned to cover a news conference at which the steelworkers union would explain terms of the deal that settled its strike against United States Steel.
The chief explainer was a union economist named Miller. After too many questions whose answers from Miller I didn’t really understand and I had no idea how I was going to write my story, I asked a question. I don’t remember what the question was, but Miller answered it in English, not economics-eze, and I and, as it turned out, other reporters were saved.
Time and experience obviously made a difference in Miller’s delivery.
The trait I probably admired most in Miller was his honesty. “Marvin never lied to anyone, especially reporters,” Moss said.
Added Fehr: “It was the way you conducted yourself. There was never a suggestion that you shouldn’t be honest.”
To this day, I am not aware of ever having been lied to by a union official. I can’t say the same for all of management representatives of the past 50 years or so.