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Curt Flood's Fight For Free Agency

Curt Flood's Fight For Free Agency

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Published by: green4sd on Sep 03, 2009
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05/11/2014

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I am pleased God made my skin black, but I wish He had made it thicker 
.”–Curt Flood The request seemed simple enough. He wanted to work wherehe wanted and for whom he wanted and be paid a wage he hadearned. By both his peers and acclimation in the media he was thoughtto be among the best at what he did. If only it really were that simple.But Curt Flood did not have an ordinary job in an ordinary time.He was a black baseball player in the late 1960’s. The rules in all of society were being challenged. On October 8, 1969, Flood was tradedby the St. Louis Cardinals, his employer of 12 years, to the PhiladelphiaPhillies.
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For as long as baseball had been America’s past time playerswere traded from one team to another, but Flood felt that he deservedbetter than being treated “like a piece of property.”
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Specifically, he feltit was time to challenge baseball’s hallowed Reserve Clause.
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 The Reserve Clause was part of the standard player’s contractthat baseball owners had with all players. The standard player’scontract dates back, in its original form, to the late 1870s. It wasaround this time that baseball owners realized the value of players totheir respective franchises. It was in their best interest to keep their
1
Lomax, Michael E. (2004). Curt Flood Stood Up for Us: The Quest to Break Down Racial Barriers andStructural Inequality in Major League Baseball.
Culture, Sport and Society
. 6 (2-3) 44-70.
2
Snyder, Brad. (2006).
 A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood’s Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports.
NewYork: Viking Penguin.
3
Flood, Curt & Carter, Richard. (1971).
The Way It Is
. New York: Trident Press.
 
best players perpetually employed if only for the sake of keeping theteams’ value as a business enterprise.
4
During the later years of the nineteenth century several baseballleagues were in existence with varying degrees of profitability. Theywere effectively in competition with each other for both fans and forplayers. The only league still in existence from this time period is theNational League, which was formed in 1876 and continues to thepresent day.
5
In 1890, the United States Congress passed the ShermanAntitrust Act.
6
The Sherman Act, as it became known, was meant topromote competition and prevent monopolies among companies withinan industry—specifically the oil and railroad industries that were bothdominated by a few companies.
7
Professional baseball was thought tobe neither large enough nor profitable enough to be among theindustries that the Sherman Act might affect. That would changeshortly after the start of the 20
th
century.Regulators began enforcing the Sherman Act, and its power wasconfirmed in 1910 when the Supreme Court ordered the powerful
4
Balfour, Alan & Porter, Philip K. 1991. The Reserve Clause in Professional Sports: Legality and Effect onCompetitive Balance.
 Labor Law Journal 
. January 1991. 8-18.
5
Balfour & Porter 8.
6
 
Sherman Antitrust Act, ch. 647, 26 Stat.209, 15 U.S.C.  § 1 – (1890)
7
Ibid.
2
 
Standard Oil Company to be dissolved because it was essentiallymonopolizing the oil industry.
8
From a player’s a point of view, the Reserve Clause essentiallymeant that the player was beholden forever to the team that initiallysigned him to a contract. The player could only change teams if he wastraded, sold or released from his contract by the team.
9
If the term “sold” sounds harsh with respect to the services of ahuman being consider that perhaps the Boston Red Sox sold perhapsthe greatest player in history—Babe Ruth—to the New York Yankees in1918 for $100,000.
 Ruth, like every other player, had no freedom of movement. Butthe Reserve Clause affected every player, not just the superstars. Theonly way a player’s value, meaning his salary, increased was throughexcellence on the playing field. So, what if a very good player but hadthe misfortune to play behind an even better player? He might neverhave a chance to take the field and demonstrate his talents. The classic example of a player taking advantage of his one, andpossibly only chance, is, Lou Gehrig. The now-legendary first basemanwas on the New York Yankees for two full seasons before an opportunityto play on a regular basis arrived. The starting first baseman, Wally
8
Ibid.
9
Martin, Philip L. 1972. The Labor Controversy in Professional Baseball: The Flood Case.
 Labor Law Journal 
. September 1972. 567-572.
10
 baseball-reference.com.
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