SAN DIEGO — Marvin Miller's Hall of Fame candidacy split baseball, much like his tenure as the head of the players' association.
Former Commissioner Fay Vincent, a long and vociferous proponent of Miller's election to the Hall, felt the honour was long overdue and understood the enmity felt by club owners.
"I think they were very bitter. They viewed him as having hurt the game, and they didn't want to recognize the fact that they were wrong," Vincent said Monday, a day after Miller was elected by the modern era committee with exactly the 75% needed. "I think the owners who fought with him, Bud Selig and the others, really were very, very bitter because he won almost every one of those fights. And I think it took them a long time to get over it, get over all those losses."
Miller led the Major League Baseball Players Association from 1966-82, gaining breakthroughs that included free agency, salary arbitration and grievance arbitration.
In 2007, after the third of what would be seven turndowns, Miller asked not to be considered for the Hall and called the process "a farce." He died in 2012 at age 95.
"Marvin was an enormous part of the history of baseball and deserves to have a plaque in the Hall of Fame, and we're so happy that he finally does," Hall chair Jane Forbes Clark said.
Miller was elected along with former St. Louis catcher Ted Simmons, who was picked on 13 of 16 ballots. They will be inducted July 26 along with any players from the baseball writers' ballot, headed by Derek Jeter.
"First contract I played for at the major league level was for $7,500," Simmons said, recalling a time when the minimum was $6,000.
Miller pushed for the floor to be raised to $10,000 in 1968 and $12,000 in 1970.
"I turned to my wife and I said, `I think we can buy a car!' Then you could buy one for $800 brand new," Simmons explained. "Marvin impacted everybody that played and were members of the association in ways that I'll never forget. My family will never forget. Changed everything."
Next season's minimum is $563,500 and the average is over $4 million, a more than 200-fold increase from $19,000 during the union's first survey in 1967. Simmons spoke Monday at the winter meetings from the same stage where an hour earlier, the Washington Nationals announced a record $245 million deal with World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg.
“”I think everybody that played the game of baseball is indebted to Marvin Miller," said Hall of Famer George Brett, a member of the modern era committee. "For the players to gain so many things and now you see the salaries of today. I don't think they would be there if it wasn't for Marvin Miller back in the '70s."
Miller led players through strikes in 1972, 1980 and 1981, and lockouts in 1972 and 1973. He advised union head Donald Fehr during a two-day strike in 1985, a spring training lockout in 1990 and the 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-95 that led to the first cancellation of the World Series in 90 years.
Miller and Fehr were demonized by some owners. Others admired Miller's abilities and accomplishments while criticizing his impact on the sport.
"I don't have anything to say," Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said tersely in the hotel lobby of the winter meetings.
Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, defeated by Miller multiple times, was inducted into the Hall in 2008. Commissioner Bud Selig, who with Reinsdorf helped push out Vincent and then presided over the longest work stoppage, was inducted in 2017.
"While Marvin and I disagreed about labour issues, I have always appreciated his role and the contributions he made to the game, and I believed he belongs in the National Baseball Hall of Fame," Selig said in a statement.
Hall committees in recent years have included former players, current and former management, media and historians. Miller received 12 votes on the secret ballot, meaning he needed the support of at least two of the six management members of the committee: former Kansas City Royals owner David Glass and former general managers Sandy Alderson, Dave Dombrowski, Walt Jocketty, Doug Melvin and Terry Ryan.
Brett also served on the modern era committee two years ago. He said player backing has not been uniform.
"People are fighting for him. People are fighting against him," Brett said.
Vincent maintained Miller's contributions will be enduring.
"There were some things that he and I disagreed about," he said. "But I'm very proud that I am the only commissioner he ever took to dinner at the 21 Club and paid for the evening."
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