January 4, 2011
In yet another contemptible and cynical vote, the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee once again elected to exclude from entrance into the hallowed - though increasingly marginalized - Cooperstown institution the one man who has exercised more influence than any other on how the game has been run for nearly 40 years: Former players' union head Marvin Miller.
Miller fell agonizingly close to enshrinement under the Expansion Era category as he collected 11 out of 16 votes on the nominating committee, falling just one vote short of the necessary three-fourths total. The committee was comprised of seven players (Johnny Bench, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Tony Perez, Frank Robinson, Ryne Sandberg and Ozzie Smith), one manager (Whitey Herzog), four current executives (Bill Giles of the Phillies, David Glass of the Royals, Andy MacPhail of the Orioles and Jerry Reinsdorf of the White Sox) and four veteran members of the media (Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun, Tim Kurkjian of ESPN, Ross Newhan, retired from the Los Angeles Times, and Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated and MLB Network).
With his dignity still fully in fact, the 93 year-old Miller had asked that his name not even be placed on the ballot this year. He's known for sometime now how he is despised in certain circles within the rigid confines of that upstate New York hamlet.
In 2008 Miller stated in an interview with the Boston Globe that, "I find myself unwilling to contemplate one more rigged Veterans Committee whose members are handpicked to reach a particular outcome while offering a pretense of a democratic vote. It is an insult to baseball fans, historians, sportswriters, and especially to those baseball players who sacrificed and brought the game into the 21st century. At the age of 91, I can do without farce."
Now it's true that the committee is more than half-filled with former players for the first time, as opposed to previous years when the overwhelming majority were executives. All the players voting this year, with the exception of Frank Robinson and to some degree Johnny Bench, were able to reap the financial rewards that Miller's crusading allowed the players. It's highly unlikely that any of these players cast their vote against enshrinement for Miller.
But with 12 votes needed, that still leaves four others to acknowledge Miller's worth to the sport. Which means that he'd have to sweep the remaining non-executive votes in order to gain entry. It'll likely happen soon but the fact that so many years have passed by with foolishness dictating the occasion, it'd be difficult to imagine Miller being especially gleeful when his day does arrive.
It's staggering that Miller's bust isn't on display at the Hall considering nearly every upstanding and revered figure in the sport from Hank Aaron to Tom Seaver to Joe Morgan to Bob Costas - and even every baseball purist's bogeyman, Bud Selig - have been vocal about their outrage at the continual snubbing of Miller. Which leads one to the only logical conclusion: that no matter how democratic and varied the voting process is, there still appears to be a built-in default to exclude the man who has worked tirelessly on behalf of working people his whole life, from machinists to autoworkers to steelworkers.
Whether or not one believes players deserve the kind of money that Miller enabled them to earn is beside the point. The fact is that players, before Miller's involvement, were treated as owner's property and he, nearly single-handedly, freed them of their servitude. Just consider that in 1968, when he got the owners to up the minimum salary from $6,000 to $1,000 in his first negotiated collective bargaining agreement, it was the first such increase in 20 years.
The one person who did receive enough votes on Monday was former Blue Jays, Mariners and Phillies General Manager Pat Gillick. Undoubtedly one of the shrewdest and most effective GMs of the last several decades, Gillick achieved that rarest of feats for an executive by winning multiple World Series - two with the Blue Jays and one with the 2008 Phillies.
But there is nonetheless a bit of irony involved in his cruising to enshrinement while the elderly Miller was ignored. Previously only three other men who could be considered GMs or, more accurately, "builders" of a team gained entry into the Hall: Ed Barrow, Branch Rickey and George Weiss. This is mainly due to the fact that before the expansion era in the sport GMs had little work to do.
But the onset of free agency is what gave GMs their crucial role. And Miller is largely responsible for that. So to let a GM reap the praise from those who guard the sport's legacy while leaving Miller excluded is utterly hypocritical and vindictive.
This is the role of the Hall of Fame, as stated on their website:
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is an independent, non-profit educational institution dedicated to fostering an appreciation of the historical development of baseball and its impact on our culture by collecting, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting its collections for a global audience as well as honoring those who have made outstanding contributions to our national pastime.
If Miller isn't linked with the "development of baseball" or having made an "outstanding contribution" to our former national pastime then I don't know - aside from those who actually played the game - if any non-player deserves induction.