Thursday, February 24, 2005

Tanana and Ryan and Two Days of Cryin’

Frank Tanana and Nolan Ryan played for the California Angels in the 1970’s and were two of the most dominating pitchers to pitch for such a pitiful team. During that period the team played .481 ball, yet these two had a combined ERA of 3.07 with 240 victories, and 3649 strikeouts.

Tanana and Ryan and Two Days of Cryin’; two great pitchers and then two days of misery because of the team’s poor pitching. They had an amazing 248 complete games between them and the bullpen was so atrocious, Los Angeles Herald Examiner sportswriter Dick Miller dubbed it the “Arson Squad.”

Dick Enberg, the noted broadcaster, talks about his days as the Angel broadcaster and about these two pitchers in his recent book, “Dick Enberg, Oh My,” published by Sports Publishing LLC.

Dick describes Frank Tanana as being “blessed with pin-point control and mountains of moxie. Early in his career, Tanana was a strikeout pitcher, but after he hurt his arm in the late 1970s, he adjusted and was able to keep winning with an 80 mile-an-hour fastball and a mixture of off-speed stuff. His fastball became his change of pace. It was tough for batters to read his pitches”

On Nolan Ryan Dick writes, “During that 1973 season, Ryan pitched for a team with a losing record that finished 15 games out of first place. Yet, besides the two no-hitters, he had a 21-16 mark, threw 26 complete games (second in the league), worked 326 innings (third), and compiled a 2.87 earned run average (fourth). He also struck out 383 batters, which is still the major league record. But he didn’t win the Cy Young Award. He finished second to the Orioles’ Jim Palmer. It was criminal.”

The book comes with a DVD where Dick tells many of the personal stories included in the book.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Day Jim Rice Made Contact


From The Hartford Courant, Thursday, August 7, 1997
Source: JEFF GOLDBERG; Courant Staff Writer

On that sunny Saturday, Aug. 7, 1982, some of the best seats at Fenway Park were in the front rows of the field boxes along the first base line. From that vantage point, fans are close to the action, without the distraction of the wire screen that protects fans behind the plate.

Tom Keane got three tickets through a friend who was close to Haywood Sullivan, the Red Sox's executive vice president. The tickets belonged to the wife of Red Sox manager Ralph Houk, but she wasn't using them. Keane used the opportunity to drive his sons, 4-year- old Jonathan and 2-year-old Matthew, from their Greenland, New Hampshire home to the game.

For Jonathan Keane, it was a dream come true. It was a chance to see his favorite player, promising infielder Dave Stapleton, up close. So, in the bottom of the fourth as Stapleton stepped to the plate, Jonathan Keane watched eagerly from the second row of Box 29. A right-handed batter, Stapleton stood in against right-hander Richard Dotson of the Chicago White Sox. Stapleton was late on a Dotson pitch, and he lined a foul ball to the right.

"A Quick Reaction"
Jonathan Keane is 19, a sophomore at North Carolina State. He lives in Bethlehem, New Hampshire., and works during the summer as a waiter at Pier 2 in Portsmouth. His only scar is a physical one -- a small line above his left eye. Keane doesn't remember anything after Stapleton made contact with the pitch, but team doctor Arthur Pappas said he had never seen so much blood at Fenway.

It happened in an instant, a little boy's dream becoming every parent's nightmare. Jonathan, who had come to Fenway that day looking for heroes, would find one. “We were watching the game and all of a sudden I heard a ‘crack,’” Tom Keane said. “And I thought it hit the side of the dugout, because the dugout was right beside us. The ball was just hit so hard you never even saw it. I turned around and looked and Jon was slouched over and blood was gushing out of his head.” The foul line drive had struck the boy in the forehead, slicing open his left temple and fracturing his skull.

The damage was frighteningly obvious. There was so much blood, second baseman Jerry Remy, now a Red Sox broadcaster, nearly threw up in the dugout. Red Sox center fielder Rick Miller, in the on-deck circle, yelled into the dugout for trainer Charlie Moss to come onto the field. As Moss started, Jim Rice leapt past him.

The day had started routinely for Rice, who had hit a two-run double an inning earlier off Dotson to tie the score at 2. He was watching from the dugout as Stapleton batted. He heard Miller's plea but didn't see anyone moving. Instinctively, Rice climbed into the stands and gathered Keane's bloody body into his arms. Rice carried him into the dugout, through the runway and into the trainer's room in the clubhouse. It all happened in seconds. “It was just a reaction,”' Rice said. “You don't have time to think about it. You just think about doing something.”

Pappas went directly from his box seat to the trainer's room, barely beating Rice into the clubhouse. After a quick examination, the boy was put in an ambulance and taken to Children's Hospital, where he was listed in good condition. Stapleton was shaken. “I feel so badly, “Stapleton said after the game. I just wish I could have it back.” Stapleton visited Keane in the hospital the next day, followed by Tony La Russa, who was then the manager of the White Sox. Even Hank Aaron called. The game had been an NBC Game of the Week, and Aaron had seen it. He called Children's Hospital to make sure a boy he had never met was OK.

Father won't forget
Jonathan recovered from his injuries and was back at Fenway Park April 5,1983, for Opening Day. The original plan was for Carl Yastrzemski Sr. to throw out the first pitch -- the younger Carl was starting his final season with the Red Sox -- but Sullivan called the Keanes and asked if Jonathan would also like to throw a first pitch. Jonathan accepted. Keane says he still meets people who remember what happened to him. For Keane and his close friends, however, it's not a big deal.

I try to keep it low,” Keane said. “I tell people I got hit in the head at Fenway and Jim Rice carried me off, and that's pretty much it.” Both Jonathan and his father still go to games at Fenway. Jonathan, possessing the air of indestructibility that accompanies youth, enjoys sitting in the low boxes close to home plate, indifferent to the possibility he could be struck again. Tom Keane isn't so self-assured. When he visits Fenway, he sits in the safety of the grandstand, far from the line drives. “I don't like it [in the field boxes],” Tom Keane said. “It's very uncomfortable because it brings back the memories of that.”

That day, Aug. 7, 1982
Tom Keane said it could have been much worse, and that Rice's quick thinking may have saved his son's life. “Time is very much a factor once you have that kind of a head injury and the subsequent swelling of the brain,” Pappas said. “That's why it's so important to get him to care so it can be dealt with. [Rice] certainly helped him very considerably.”

His Place in History
Today, Rice is the Red Sox's hitting instructor. He was happy to learn that Keane is doing well, and is attending college not far from Rice's home state, South Carolina. “It's a good feeling,” Rice said. “At least he knows that we have
southern hospitality.”

Rice, 44, retired in 1989 with 382 home runs and a .298 career average. The player who Aaron once said would be the one to break his all-time home run record has been on the Hall of Fame ballot twice. He has not come close to making it. The experts say part of the reason he won't is his poor relationship with the media. With writers, Rice was often cold and surly, not the kind of personality one thinks of when discussing the “character issue.” Mo Vaughn sees it differently. Vaughn, in some ways, is the Jim Rice of the '90s: a power-hitting All-Star and team leader. Vaughn had his own experience aiding a young boy, befriending and hitting a home run for cancer patient Jason Leader in 1993.

“Jim's was a reaction, mine was more over a period of time,” Vaughn said. “It all means the same. We're all trying to help people.” Vaughn says Rice should be inducted. “He's one of the greatest players in Red Sox history,” Vaughn said. “He should have his day.”

Tom Keane agrees. He only met Rice once, but in those brief seconds 15 years ago, Keane learned all he'd ever need to about Rice's character. He was a witness to another of Rice's career statistics: one save. “It was a very humanitarian thing that he did,” Keane said. “I think he's a wonderful person. I think he belongs in the Hall of Fame. He's certainly in our Hall of Fame.”

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Steve Palermo - Umpire

From the time he began his career as an American League umpire in 1977, Steve Palermo was widely regarded as one of the best umpires in the game.

In 15 years on the field, he brought a boundless energy and enthusiasm to a game that he loved. His career highlights include two of the most famous games in New York Yankees history. In 1978, he worked the Yankees one-game playoff against the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park to determine the Eastern Division winner. In fact, it was Palermo, serving as the third base umpire, who signaled "fair ball" when Bucky Dent hit the game-winning home run. On July 4, 1978 he worked behind the plate for Dave Righetti's no-hitter against the Red Sox at Yankees Stadium.

His career as an umpire also includes the 1983 World Series, four American League Championship Series (1980, 1982, 1984 and 1989) and the 1986 All-Star Game. In August 1991, The Sporting News ranked Steve Number 1 among American League umpires for overall performance.

In early July, 1991, it seemed that Palermo's umpire career might have ended, but everyone knows it is difficult to win an argument with an umpire and he refuses to lose this one. On July 7, 1991, Steve and several friends were dining after a Texas Rangers game when they were alerted that two waitresses were being mugged in the parking lot. In an attempt to apprehend the assailants, Steve suffered a bullet wound to his spinal cord, resulting in instant paralysis to the lower extremities. Doctors told Steve and his wife that he would probably never walk again. Yet through rehabilitation and a lot of determination, Palermo is winning his argument...he is walking with the use of one small leg brace and cane and has returned to the game he loves so much, albeit, in a different capacity.

Following his injury, in addition to his daily rehabilitation work and accepting over 25 awards for courage and dedication, including the 1994 Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPY's, Palermo has taken his unique perspective of the game to the broadcast booth.

In 1992, the articulate and candid native of Worchester, MA began his broadcasting career by calling some of the Seattle Mariners baseball games. In 1994, Steve was named Special Assistant to Major League Baseball's Executive Council. In addition to his work with Major League Baseball, he is providing feature reports and serving as a color analyst for Madison Square Garden, the cable network for the New York Yankees.

On December 1, 1992, the Steve Palermo Foundation for Spinal Cord Injuries formally opened its doors. The Foundation was formed to fund research for the discovery of a cure for paralysis and the devastation it causes while also providing hope and support to those with spinal cord injuries and their families...helping them get "one step closer to home."

On January 1, 1995, the Steve Palermo Foundation for Spinal Cord Injuries merged with the Kent Waldrep National Paralysis Foundation becoming the Steve Palermo Chapter/National Paralysis Foundation. Both families firmly believe that the consolidation of these two organizations will be a step forward in bringing the issue of paralysis to the national forefront. The same drive and dedication that returned Palermo to his feet will fuel the efforts of this Chapter and Foundation to aid in the discovery of a cure for paralysis.

Steve and his wife, Debbie, currently reside in Overland Park, Kansas.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Scared Into Quitting Dip

‘It was the hardest thing I ever had to do’
(Part 2 of 2) First Published 5/19/1998. American Cancer Society (

On the mound, Curt Schilling is the model of control. In 1997, Schilling struck out 319 batters in a season, reaching that milestone faster than any other major league pitcher in history. Pick a spot on home plate, Schilling can hit it. Yet, prior to March 1998, if you asked him to go a day without smokeless tobacco, he would have failed. Although he didn't dip while playing, Schilling was never long without smokeless tobacco. "It dictated my life," he said. "It determined when I ate, slept, and where I went."

The toughness of quitting
He tried to quit once before, but the moodiness and uneasiness were too much to deal with. And it wasn't as if he had not been told of the risk. He had seen the pictures, including those of Bill Tuttle, an 11-year Major League outfielder whose jaw and face have been ravaged by cancer after a 40-year affair with smokeless tobacco.

Schilling had been face to face with that kind of death before. Barely into his Major League career, while pitching for the Baltimore Orioles, Schilling's father died of lung cancer. "I promised that I wouldn't do to my kids, what my father did to me," Schilling said. "I had to be scared to quit."

Schilling has faced a litany of baseball greats throughout his career, and has battled his way back from shoulder injuries. Yet, despite the challenges that baseball has placed in his path, kicking his smokeless tobacco habit "was the hardest thing I've ever had to do," he said.

Unlike his first attempt, Schilling realized two things: he couldn't quit cold turkey; and the cravings, albeit diminished over time, would always be with him.

Schilling depended on a nicotine patch for three weeks to slowly wean him off its effects. While the patch made it easier to deny his craving for a dip, they were strongest during those first three weeks. "I was very moody and just kept getting these urges," Schilling said.

Desire is still there
Now past the most difficult period, the desire for a dip is still with him. "It's not as tough as it was," he said. "I've beaten it. I can say that now. I may want to do it, but I won't. I realized that beating this doesn't mean I'm never going to want to do it. I just know that I can't."

Schilling is an uncomfortable role model. While he knows how easily teenagers can be influenced by the actions of successful athletes, he doesn't want the job of anti-smokeless tobacco celebrity spokesman. But he has allowed his name and face to be used as a public example of what lies ahead for young people who take up smokeless tobacco, and he wants people to know how difficult it is to stop once you start.

"I chose to dip, but I didn't choose the addiction," Schilling said. "I look back now and see that all I got from 15 years of dipping was no taste in my mouth, bad breath and bleeding gums.

"If a kid says he wants to start dipping, my only question is 'why?' Look at pictures of guys with half a jaw or bloody mouths. That would have made me stop before I got started."

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Schilling Shuts Out Smokeless Tobacco

Phillies pitching ace kicks 15-year habit after cancer scare.
First Published 5/18/1998, American Cancer Society ( (Part 1 of 2)

When Curt Schilling was a 16-year-old boy in Phoenix, far removed from his future in Major League Baseball, he succumbed to a dare posed by a friend: take a pinch of chewing tobacco and put it between your cheek and gum. To Schilling's surprise, he didn't get sick or light-headed. "I enjoyed it from the start," said the Philadelphia Phillies' ace.

So it came to pass over the next 15 years, smokeless tobacco took hold of his life. If he wasn't playing baseball, he was chewing tobacco. And it didn't matter where - in the locker room after a game or sneaking off for a quick dip during a black tie affair - Schilling had to indulge his habit. The 6-4, 225-pound right-handed pitcher, who has dominated opposing batters for 10 seasons, was a pushover for a small tin of tobacco in his back pocket.

The scare hits
Then in March 1998, as part of a voluntary checkup of 141 players during spring training, Schilling was one of 83 ballplayers found to have tobacco-related mouth lesions. In a way, Schilling was not surprised by the discovery. He wavered over whether to take part in the examination out of fear of what would be found. Over the years, he had noticed sores in his mouth, but continued to feed his tobacco habit. When doctors confirmed that he did indeed have a tobacco-related lesion that could be cancerous, he wondered if his children would lose their father to cancer like he lost his father, a lifetime smoker, to lung cancer in 1988.

The power of nicotine addiction, however, can be summed up in Schilling's actions as he awaited the results of the biopsy - he continued to dip. He knew that his relationship with smokeless tobacco had to end. He had known it for years. He had even tried quitting once, only to fail.

It wasn't until his doctor called on March 17 that he knew he had to quit for good.

"The doctor called and left a message to call him back," Schilling recounted, in Baseball Weekly. "I knew right away it was going to be bad news. When I called him he picked up the phone and I said 'hello.' He told me to hold on while he switched phones and went to another room."

The news was that the lesion proved to be benign. But it would only be a matter of time before a malignancy would be found if he continued his habit, his doctor told him.

"They told me it was as close to getting cancerous as I could be without having cancer," Schilling said. "I was terrified."

Life after dip
Life without a dip has been difficult, Schilling admitted. He still craves tobacco and battles to deny the feeling. Ironically, he has found support within the sport that has encouraged his tobacco use. "I've said to other players, 'I could sure use a dip right now,'" Schilling said. "They would just look at me and ask, 'why would you want to do that now, you can beat this.'"

On Opening Day of the 1998 season, Schilling took the mound against the New York Mets. Just two weeks from the day he flushed all the smokeless tobacco he could find in his house down a toilet and armed with a nicotine patch, Schilling held the Mets scoreless for eight innings, striking out nine and giving up only two hits.

His next start was five days later against the Atlanta Braves, where he pitched a complete game, striking out 15 batters, and giving up only one run.

"I've beaten it," Schilling said. "I can say that now."

Tomorrow, Curt Schilling tells how he kicked the habit and the difficulty in achieving that goal.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Sandy Koufax - Legend and Luminary

What They Said About Sandy Koufax
1. "A foul ball was a moral victory." - Don Sutton

2. "Career highlights? I had two. I got an intentional walk from Sandy Koufax and I got out of a rundown against the Mets." - Bob Uecker

3. "Either he throws the fastest ball I've ever seen, or I'm going blind." - Richie Ashburn

4. "He throws a 'radio ball,' a pitch you hear, but you don't see." - Gene Mauch

5. "I can see how he won twenty-five games. What I don't understand is how he lost five." - Yogi Berra

6. "The day I got a hit off (Sandy) Koufax was when he knew it was all over." - Sparky Anderson

7. "Trying to hit him was like trying to drink coffee with a fork." - Willie Stargell

8. "We need just two players to be a contender. Just Babe Ruth and Sandy Koufax." - Whitey Herzog

What Sandy Koufax Said
1. "A guy that throws what he intends to throw, that's the definition of a good pitcher."

2. "I became a good pitcher when I stopped trying to make them miss the ball and started trying to make them hit it."

3. "I can't believe that Babe Ruth was a better player than Willie Mays. (Babe) Ruth is to baseball what Arnold Palmer is to golf. He got the game moving. But I can't believe he could run as well as (Willie) Mays, and I can't believe he was any better an outfielder."

4. "In the end it all comes down to talent. You can talk all you want about intangibles, I just don't know what that means. Talent makes winners, not intangibles. Can nice guys win? Sure, nice guys can win - if they're nice guys with a lot of talent. Nice guys with a little talent finish fourth and nice guys with no talent finish last."

5. "I think it's incredible because there were guys like (Willie) Mays and (Mickey) Mantle and Henry Aaron who were great players for ten years... I only had four or five good years."

6. "If I could straighten it out (his golf swing), I'd be pitching at Dodger Stadium tonight."

7. "If there was any magic formula, it was getting to pitch every fourth day."

8. "I've got a lot of years to live after baseball and I would like to live them with the complete use of my body."

9. "People who write about spring training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball."

10. "Pitching is the art of instilling fear."

11. "Show me a guy who can't pitch inside and I'll show you a loser."

12. "The game has a cleanness. If you do a good job, the numbers say so. You don't have to ask anyone or play politics. You don't have to wait for the reviews."

13. "The only time I really try for a strikeout is when I'm in a jam. If the bases are loaded with none out, for example, then I'll go for a strikeout. But most of the time I try to throw to spots. I try to get them to pop up or ground out. On a strikeout I might have to throw five or six pitches, sometimes more if there are foul-offs. That tires me. So I just try to get outs. That's what counts - outs. You win with outs, not strikeouts."

14. "There is among us a far closer relationship than the purely social one of a fraternal organization because we are bound together not only by a single interest but by a common goal. To win. Nothing else matters, and nothing else will do."

Courtesy of Baseball-Almanac

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Don Mattingly - Played Between Yankee Dynasties

Don Mattingly played for the New York Yankees for 14 seasons, yet never appeared in a World Series game. In fact, his Yankee teams only appeared in one post-season series, the 1995 AL Division Series during his tenure, losing to the Seattle Mariners 3 games to 2. They ended the season in first place in 1994, but that was the strike-shortened season, which ended on August 12, and the World Series was cancelled.

Poor “Donny Baseball,” he made his debut on September 8, 1982 and his final game was October 1, 1995. He started a year too late, missing the Yankee appearance in the 1981 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers; and four years after back-to-back World Series victories against the same Dodgers in 1977 and 1978. He also retired a year too early, missing the 1996 World Series victory followed by victories in 1998, 1999, and 2000.

After becoming a regular in 1984, Mattingly established himself as one of the preeminent stars of the 1980s. He hit for average and power, fielded his position at first base with brilliance, and displayed a work ethic and charisma reminiscent of Yankee greats of the past. Actually, his home run power developed after his arrival in the majors, but he went on to set a couple impressive HR records in 1986.

In 1982 Mattingly joined a Yankee team that was reluctant to play kids from its farm system, preferring to trade them for proven players or let them languish on the bench as insurance against injury to regulars. Mattingly saw limited action through 1983, playing primarily in the outfield, the position at which the Yankees originally drafted him. Although his career minor league batting average was .332, there was little in Mattingly's minor league performance to indicate that he might emerge as a power hitter. However, Mattingly used those first two years in the majors to become a smart two strike hitter and learned to look for the inside pitch that he might drive into Yankee Stadium's short right-field porch. The result was his fine 1984 season, in which he took over the first-base job and hit 23 homers en route to capturing the batting title on the last day of the season with a .343 average that edged teammate Dave Winfield's .340. He became the first Yankee left-handed hitter to bat over .340 since Lou Gehrig hit .351 in 1937.

Despite often starting the season abysmally, Mattingly established himself as a dominant hitter from 1984 through 1989. In each of those seasons, he hit over .300, collected more than 186 hits, and, except for 1988, drove in 100 or more runs. During that period, no major league player had more RBIs than his 684, and only Wade Boggs (1,269) had more hits than Mattingly’s 1,219. Mattingly displayed his power in 1985 when, batting third in the Yankee lineup, he amassed career highs of 35 home runs and a league-leading 145 RBI en route to being named AL MVP.

In 1986 Mattingly set new Yankees marks for doubles (53) and hits (238) in a season, becoming the first Yankee since Lou Gehrig with three consecutive 200 hit seasons. During the 1987 season, Mattingly set or tied five remarkable major league records. He hit six grand slams to set a new single-season mark. (He had never hit one prior to 1987.) He tied Dale Long's 1956 record by homering in eight consecutive games from July 8 through July 18. His 10 homers during that period were a major league record for total homers in an eight game streak, and his concurrent streak of 10 games with at least one extra base hit broke Babe Ruth's 1921 AL record. The power streak ended on July 20, the night Mattingly tied the major league record of 22 putouts by a first baseman in a nine-inning game.

Mattingly matched his hitting with outstanding defense. From 1985 through 1989, he won five consecutive Gold Glove awards at first base. Along with Chick Gandil (1916-1919), Mattingly (1984-1987) holds the record of leading AL first basemen in fielding percentage for four consecutive years. On his retirement his .996 lifetime fielding percentage at first base tied him for the all-time lead. His skills allowed him to play second base and third base on a few occasions despite throwing left-handed.

From 1990 on, back problems led to a decline in Mattingly's batting performance as he adjusted his stance to compensate. His season HR high in the '90s was 17 in 1993, one of only two seasons in double figures in that time, and only in the 1994 strike season did he top .300 in batting average. His fielding prowess usually did not suffer, however; his fielding percentages actually got higher, and he led the AL three straight years (1992-94). He spent time on the DL in 1990, '93, and '94, but was so firmly ensconced as a team leader that it was not until after the 1995 season that he was replaced at first base by the Yankees' acquisition of Tino Martinez, whereupon Mattingly unofficially retired. He had, at least, finally reached postseason play, hitting well in the Yankees' losing effort that year against Seattle in the division playoffs.

In January 1997 Mattingly officially announced his retirement from baseball, having decided that his back problems would not let him make a comeback. At that time the Yankees announced that his number 23 would be retired, with a ceremony to take place during the 1997 season. Yankee owner George Steinbrenner called vociferously for Mattingly's election to the Hall of Fame when he became eligible, a move widely perceived as an attempt to deflect criticism for the way the team handled the ending of Mattingly's career.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Curt Flood Defended

Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2005
From: Richard Zitrin
Subject: Re: Curt Flood, pioneer

Bill Deane writes, in part:
"Flood was indeed a courageous, principled man, who basically lost his livelihood because of his challenge of baseball's reserve clause. But he lost his challenge, so how did his actions save others from suffering as he did? Three decades have blurred history. Many people know that the Flood case happened in the early 1970s, and that the advent of free agency happened in the mid-1970s, and they assume that there was some connection. If there was, I fail to see it.”

I'm a bit incredulous that someone as knowledgeable as Bill would marginalize Flood's taking his case to the US Supreme Court, complete with a celebrity lawyer and former justice, Arthur Goldberg. The case made headlines. It got everyone thinking about the unfairness of the reserve clause. It created a synergy for change. Saying Flood's actions had no effect on others is like saying Rosa Parks didn't do anyone any good because she was thrown out of her seat on the bus and, thereby, lost.

Richard Zitrin Adjunct Professor of Law, UC Hastings
Adjunct Professor of Law, Univ. of San Francisco
c/o Zitrin & Mastromonaco, LLP
One Ferry Building, Suite 202
San Francisco, CA 94111

(Source: SABR-L Digest)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Another View on Curt Flood

Date: Thu, 27 Jan 2005
From: Bill Deane DizDeane@USADATANET.NET
Subject: Curt Flood, Pioneer

Marc Seror wrote, "A few days ago was the eighth anniversary of the death of Curt Flood, a great ballplayer and a great man. Today's youth should look at this man's life and see how bold and valiant he was, who believed so strongly in a cause that he sacrificed what he loved, so others may not suffer as he did."

Flood was indeed a courageous, principled man, who basically lost his livelihood because of his challenge of baseball's reserve clause. But he lost his challenge, so how did his actions save others from suffering as he did?

Three decades have blurred history. Many people know that the Flood case happened in the early 1970s, and that the advent of free agency happened in the mid-1970s, and they assume that there was some connection. If there was, I fail to see it.

It was another Cardinal, Ted Simmons, who unwittingly paved the way for free agency in the same year that Flood lost his case. Simmons, who had received just $17,500 while batting .304 in 1971, wanted more than the $25,000 the club offered him in '72, and refused to sign. But instead of holding out, Simmons just kept coming to work every day. This forced the Cards to invoke the little-known "renewal clause," permitting a club to unilaterally renew a player's contract from the previous season (at up to a 20% cut) if a new one had not been signed by March 10. Simmons played most of the year under this arrangement, finally signing a two-year pact worth a reported $75,000 on July 24. Had he held out a couple of months longer and tested the system, he might have become baseball's first free agent, three years before Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally. "I'm no crusader," Simmons admitted. "I don't even have a lawyer. All I want is more money."

The baseball world wondered what would have happened had Simmons completed the entire season without a contract, and it would soon find out. The Padres' Bobby Tolan broke Simmons's record in 1974, playing the whole season before signing in December. Finally, pitchers McNally (Expos) andMessersmith (Dodgers) went the distance in 1975. Messersmith received $115,000 but played without a written contract. The Players' Association filed a grievance, claiming that the two pitchers were entitled to "free agent" status. In a landmark decision on December 23, 1975, arbitrator Peter Seitz agreed. Seitz said that the renewal clause created only a one-year right of renewal, after which the club had no further claim to the player. McNally had already retired, but the arbitrator's decision allowed Messersmith to sell his services to the highest bidder. He soon signed a three-year, $1,000,000 contract with the Braves, and the free agency era was upon us.

Bill Deane
(Source: SABR-L Digest)