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Sunday, December 02, 2012

Murray Chass: FORGET HOF, GO FOR MM

[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.

bobm Posted: December 02, 2012 at 03:03 PM | 10 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, marvin miller, mlbpa

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   1. Tripon Posted: December 02, 2012 at 08:26 PM (#4314751)
WHY ARE YOU YELLING?
   2. The District Attorney Posted: December 02, 2012 at 09:36 PM (#4314776)
I don't see why the HOF is less meaningful than a uniform patch, but yeah, sure, let's do that too.

I just wonder how Chass is going to write articles now.
   3. Bob Tufts Posted: December 03, 2012 at 02:19 PM (#4315364)
And even though I risk the wrath of BBTF, give Chass credit - he was one of the only sportswriters writing about labor relations issues in the early days. Yes, it may be hard to believe, but he was a progressive at that point and on that topic.
   4. dlf Posted: December 03, 2012 at 03:01 PM (#4315448)
Chass was, in the 1970s, a first rate writer particularly on labor relationsh and well deserved the praise he receives for that work. But forty years later, he has become a parody with his not-a-blog writing full of cheap shots like the one calling Stan Musial a racist and determining Mike Piazza is a steroid user due to backne.
   5. Bruce Markusen Posted: December 03, 2012 at 06:12 PM (#4315697)
Chass' writing in the seventies and eighties was also decidedly pro player, to the point that there was a running joke that his articles about labor negotiations were actually press releases written by the Players' Association. I'm not saying that Chass was not knowledgeable about labor/management issues--he certainly was--but he was hardly an objective reporter on the issue.
   6. Bob Tufts Posted: December 03, 2012 at 07:02 PM (#4315769)
Writers in the 60's, 70's and 80's were not pro-player. Most writers that I know harbor some resentment regarding their subjects, viewing them as unededucated lunks who are underserving of the money that they receive. But, they would cozy up to make what they can off these players.

In the 70's they were more like Dick Young, who said (per Baseball Library and other sources):

Miller was a "Svengali" and accused him of mesmerizing the players. "Ball players," wrote Young, "are no match for him. He runs them through a high-pressure spray the way an auto goes through a car wash, and that's how they come out, brainwashed. With few exceptions, they follow him blindly, like Zombies."
   7. Bruce Markusen Posted: December 03, 2012 at 07:09 PM (#4315774)
It doesn't matter whether "writers" were pro-player, Chass certainly was. There were also some writers who were sympathetic to player causes--I wouldn't call them pro-player, but I don't think they were pro-owner either--and that would include prestigious writers like Gammons and Leonard Koppett.

Early in his career, Young was definitely pro-player. He didn't really change to pro-owner until the seventies.
   8. The District Attorney Posted: December 03, 2012 at 07:32 PM (#4315804)
Bruce, does the HOF have a procedure in place for declining the honor?
   9. Bruce Markusen Posted: December 04, 2012 at 09:35 PM (#4317239)
TDA, to the best of my knowledge, there is no procedure for someone who is declining election/induction to the Hall of Fame. The honoree can certainly refuse to attend the ceremony, or demand that no one speak on his behalf, and I believe that wish would be granted. But the Hall of Fame would still have a ceremony and still create a plaque that would honor the person. It would be a little awkward, but there is no stipulation that says an honoree has to agree with his election/induction in order for it to take place.

My prediction? Miller will be elected to the Hall of Fame sometime in the next decade.
   10. The District Attorney Posted: December 04, 2012 at 09:52 PM (#4317248)
Bruce, thanks!

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