Marvin Miller — and a bunch of other heavy hitters such as Michael Weiner and Don Fehr — appeared at an NYU law school forum last night. Miller, at 95, still throws fastballs. And some serious chin music at the long-dead Kennesaw Mountain Landis.
Noting that the public still seems to get bent out of shape about how much money baseball players make, Miller opined that the system which leads to big paychecks for ballplayers is far more fair than the one that leads to big paychecks for CEOs:
“Let’s take chief executive officers of important corporations, or the stock exchange or Wall Street firms,” he said. “The typical way that compensation is set is for the board of directors, most of whom if not all of whom have been appointed directly by the CEO, decide what the CEO’s salary should be, or they have a committee, a compensation committee composed of board members …
“There always has been and is a rule that no contract of a player is valid unless it is signed by the franchise owner or somebody designated by the franchise owner in his place,” Miller said. “In other words, no salary is put on paper and becomes valid until the man who is going to pay for it, the owner of the franchise, has signed the contract. A better check and balance you can’t find anywhere.”
Miller went on to note quite correctly that free agency has corresponded quite nicely with exploding franchise values and team revenues and said “I never before saw such a win-win situation my life.” And he’s right. About all of that stuff.
He was on less firm footing when he started going farther back in history, defending the Chicago Black Sox players who were banned from the game, saying that they shouldn’t have been since their criminal cases were thrown out. On this I would certainly beg to differ. History is also not on Miller’s side when he said this about Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis:
Of Landis, he said “later it was felt (he) was clearly a member of the Ku Klux Klan.” Jackie Robinson didn’t break baseball’s color barrier until 1947, 2 1/2 years after Landis left baseball … “I don’t know that he wasn’t,” Miller said after his speech. “The rumors were that he was.”
I don’t think there’s any question that Landis was one of the driving — as well as obstructing — forces behind keeping baseball segregated during his tenure. And, depending on which accounts you believe, the man may have very well been quite the racist, even compared to others of his time. But there’s a big difference between that and being a member of the KKK, for which there is no credible evidence I know of.
Landis has been dead for 68 years so I doubt he cares, but dude, Marvin, seriously.