Yesterday Members of Congress sent a letter to the Baseball Hall of Fame urging Curt Flood’s election. He will, theoretically anyway, be eligible to be voted on this December by the Golden Days Committee, which is the iteration of the Eras Committees (formerly the Veterans Committee) which covers 1950-1969. In all, 102 Members of Congress signed the letter, the text of which can be seen below.
The idea, in addition to simply just attaining recognition for Flood’s baseball career, which many believe is long overdue, would be to have it coincide with the 50-year anniversary of the beginning of Flood’s quest to have some semblance of control over the course of his career.
That quest began when the Cardinals traded Flood — then a 14-year veteran who, like every other player of the time, had never gotten a say about where he’d work — to Philadelphia. Flood refused to report to the Phillies, sending a letter to baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn in which he wrote, “I do not feel that I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes.” Flood, with the support and assistance of Marvin Miller and the MLBPA, would launch litigation against Major League Baseball that, while unsuccessful, would prove massively influential and would help pave the way for free agency in baseball a few years later.
Maryland Representative David Trone, who is leading the push for Flood’s enshrinement, had this to say yesterday:
“Curt Flood changed the game of baseball when he courageously spoke truth to power in the name of what was right. Flood sacrificed his own career so players after him could have free agency, leaving one of the biggest impacts on the game to this day. It’s about time we all come together to recognize these distinctly American actions and induct Curt Flood into the Hall of Fame.”
Senator Roy Blunt from Missouri added:
“A copy of the letter Curt Flood wrote in 1969 is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and he should be there too. As a lifelong Cardinals fan, I have always admired the talent he brought to the game and his bravery off the field. He deserves to be honored with his rightful place alongside America’s greatest baseball players.”
Flood was on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot for a full 15 seasons, but topped out at just over 15% support before falling off the ballot in 1996. He passed away in January 1997. He was a Hall of Fame candidate three more times — via the Veterans Committee — in the 2003, 2005, and 2007. In the past, arguments about his candidacy focused mostly on his playing bonafides which, while quite good, do fall a tad short of Hall of Fame level by the estimate of most analysts. He had a career line of .293/.342/.389 (career OPS+ 100) with 1,861 hits and just 12 full seasons. He was considered an excellent defensive outfielder, having won seven Gold Gloves. He led the league in hits once, but his only other times at the top of the leaderboard came in plate appearances, at bats and, dubiously, caught stealing. He was a three-time All-Star and received some downballot MVP support in a few seasons.
The case for Flood, however, is obviously about more than just his playing career. It’s also about his impact and significance in the game. Until this year it was fairly safe to say that the Hall of Fame and its various groups of voters didn’t care about that sort of thing, thereby leaving Flood perpetually out of luck, but this year’s election of Players Association leader Marvin Miller would seem to change that calculus. If the Hall of Fame is now, finally, recognizing the contributors on the labor side — as it has always recognized management-side figures like former commissioners and owners — it’ll be very difficult to ignore Flood. Marvin Miller was a tremendously important figure, but the movement of labor is, ultimately, done by the labor itself, in this case the players. Flood was a huge example and inspiration in that regard.
The ballot for the Golden Days Committee comes out this fall. It’ll be interesting to see if Flood’s name is on it and whether, finally, he can garner the support so many believe he deserves.
Here’s the letter: