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January 16, 1970: Curt Flood Files Lawsuit Challenging Baseball's Reserve Clause

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    January 16, 1970: Curt Flood Files Lawsuit Challenging Baseball's Reserve Clause

    The Curious Case of Curt Flood - Part 1

    The Curious Case of Curt Flood - Part 2

    The Curious Case of Curt Flood - Part 3


    Curt Flood set off the baseball free-agent revolution 50 years ago
    Excerpt from the article:

    "NEW YORK — Curt Flood set off the free-agent revolution 50 years ago Tuesday with a 128-word letter to baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, two paragraphs that pretty much ended the career of a World Series champion regarded as among the sport’s stars but united a union behind his cause."

    Blasphemy! Curt Flood's Suit of Baseball
    Excerpt from the article:

    "On January 16, 1970, Curt Flood shocked the baseball world and America by filing suit against Major League Baseball and its reserve clause. Baseball had faced legal challenges in the past, but never had a player of Flood's caliber attempted to assail the game's sacred clause--which effectively bound a player and his contract to a team for life. The St. Louis Cardinals outfielder had earned three All-Star appearances, seven Gold Gloves, and a pair of World Series championships. Furthermore, Flood earned $90,000 a year yet accused baseball of violating of the 13th amendment, barring slavery and involuntary servitude. With a few exceptions, the public and the media initially reacted to Flood's action in utter disbelief, branding the outfielder an ingrate, a destroyer, even a blasphemer."

    Flood v. Kuhn
    Excerpt from the article:

    "Flood v. Kuhn, 407 U.S. 258 (1972), was a United States Supreme Court decision upholding, by a 5–3 margin, the antitrust exemption first granted to Major League Baseball (MLB) in Federal Baseball Club v. National League. It arose from a challenge by St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Curt Flood when he refused to be traded to the Philadelphia Phillies after the 1969 season. He sought injunctive relief from the reserve clause, which prevented him from negotiating with another team for a year after his contract expired. Named as initial respondents were baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, MLB and all of its then-24 member clubs."...

    As Lockout Begins, Baseball’s Hall of Fame Blacklists Curt Flood—Again
    Excerpts from the article:

    "On Thursday morning, Major League Baseball (MLB)’s owners locked out its players, sending the sport into its first work stoppage since 1994. The owners and the players union were at a bargaining impasse over how to share baseball’s growing revenues and profits. In the five years since the last collective bargaining agreement was signed, players have received a declining proportion of their teams’ revenues, which come not only from ticket sales but also from local and national television deals, real estate development, publicly-funded stadiums, and, most recently, gambling."

    "A key logjam is the issue of free agency. Currently, players can’t become free agents — which allows them to negotiate with other teams — until they’ve played for six full seasons. The union has accused teams of rigging the system by keeping players in the minors for an extra few weeks or months to deny them eligibility for that threshold. The players want to shorten that time period so younger players can negotiate for better salaries based on their market value."

    St. Louis Cardinals: Eight things you should know about Curt Flood
    Excerpts from the article:

    "1. He was an outstanding hitter and fielder"
    "A three-time All-Star who usually batted second, behind Lou Brock, Flood hit .293 with a .342 on-base average and 1,861 hits. He was even more noted for his center field brilliance, which resulted in seven Gold Gloves."...
    "2. He objected to a trade to Philadelphia — or anywhere else"
    "Flood and Tim McCarver, Cardinals co-captains, were packaged with two others in an October 1969 deal for three Phillies players, including superstar Dick Allen."...
    "3. He sued baseball knowing he’d never personally benefit"
    "Although his suit sought lost pay and $1 million in damages, baseball union leader Marvin Miller told Flood to expect no remuneration from the courts."...
    "4. Most of the mainstream media vilified him
    "Many scribes objected to Flood’s use of the word “slave” in relation to the reserve clause."...
    "5. Players past and current provided mixed support"
    "While the players’ union voted unanimously to support Flood, some other players worried that the lawsuit, if successful, would be detrimental to baseball."...
    "6. Flood lost the battle, but the players won the war"
    "On June 19, 1972, the Supreme Court ruled for Kuhn and the owners by a 5-3 margin, with chief justice Warren Burger voting for the owners after initially expressing support for Flood."...
    7. "He paid dearly for his stand against the baseball establishment"
    "Flood had a drinking problem that worsened with retirement, the stress of his trials, and financial setbacks..."...
    8. "He got his due — finally"
    ..."In 1986, Flood finally got sober. On Dec. 6, 1994, he met with 80 striking players in Atlanta and received another standing ovation from a crowd that included Paul Molitor, Eddie Murray and Kirby Puckett."

    Curt Flood
    Excerpts from the article:

    "Curt Flood was a vital cog in the 1964 Cardinals’ world championship run, but that achievement may have been all but forgotten in light of Flood’s subsequent role in the arrival of free agency for baseball players."

    "If Curt had been shielded to some extent from the ugliness of racial hatred while growing up in California, his bubble burst when he was ushered out of a side door of the Redlegs’ training camp hotel and hustled across town to Ma Felder’s boarding house, where the black players were housed:
    “Until it happens you literally cannot believe it. After it happens, you need time to absorb it. … Rules had been invoked and enforced. I was at Ma Felder’s because white law, white custom and white sensibilities required me to remain offstage until needed. I was a good athlete … but this incidental skill did not redeem me socially. Officially and for the duration, I was a {N-WORD}.”

    "In 1998 Congress passed the Curt Flood Act, which eliminated baseball’s antitrust exemption in regard to labor issues. Flood received one final posthumous accolade in 1999, when Time magazine named him one of the ten most influential athletes of the past century."

    "A couple of years before Flood died, George Will wrote “He lost the 1970 season and lost in the Supreme Court, but he had lit a fuse. … Six years later – too late to benefit him – his cause prevailed. The national pastime is clearly better because of that. But more important, so is the nation, because it has learned one more lesson about the foolishness of fearing freedom.”

    Curt Flood (1992) [INTERVIEW]
    "The Yankee is one who, if he once gets his teeth set on a thing, all creation can't make him let go." Ralph Waldo Emerson