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Thursday, December 05, 2019

Still Waiting on Cooperstown, Marvin Miller Gets a Fitting Induction Elsewhere

This Hall of Fame season, like several before it, has invited baseball to reckon with the question of Marvin Miller. This is not so much a question about him—Miller’s influence is too obvious to be much debated—as it is a question about the Hall, what it means for the institution to exist without him and what sort of baseball history can be written around him. (Given that Miller’s work as the first director of the players’ union created the very structure of the modern game, it seems fair to say that the answer is a peculiarly partial one.)

Yet Miller has been put on the ballot four times for the Veterans Committee, twice for the Expansion Era Committee, and now twice for the Modern Baseball Era Committee, and he’s been passed over each time. (Before his death in 2012, he said that he did not wish to be listed on future ballots; he’s still been included on three ballots posthumously.) This year, however, there’s a new foil to the Hall’s question of Marvin Miller, as he’s just been enshrined in another grand institution of Americana: The National Portrait Gallery.

The Gallery, part of the Smithsonian Institution, holds portraits of iconic Americans; each year, an exhibit is curated of the most prominent recent additions, with a selection unveiled at a gala every November. The 25 portraits in this year’s class include actor Morgan Freeman, Olympic track star Wilma Rudolph, Nobel Prize winner Frances Arnold, and Amazon C.E.O Jeff Bezos. And, of course, Miller.

The qualifications for the National Portrait Gallery are at once more and less difficult to reach than those of the Baseball Hall of Fame; more so in the sense that the gallery’s “paramount concern” is the person’s impact on national history and culture, a naturally hard standard to meet, and less so in the sense that there is one paramount concern, rather than the electoral preferences of a fluid set of sportswriters and committee members. While Miller has not satisfied the latter, there wasn’t a question about his ability to meet the former. (He’s not alone in that; Pete Rose is in the Gallery’s collection, too, painted by Andy Warhol.)

Figures: Visited a half-dozen or so museums in the District last week, and the National Portrait Gallery was one I missed…..

 

QLE Posted: December 05, 2019 at 10:00 PM | 0 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: marvin miller, smithsonian

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