Players Assert Themselves
From the time of the formation of the Major Leagues to the 1960s, when it came to the control of the game of baseball the team owners held the whip hand. After the so-called "Brotherhood Strike" of 1890 and the failure of the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players and its Players National League, the owners control of the game seemed absolute. It lasted over 70 years despite a number of short-lived players organizations. In 1966, however, the players enlisted the help of labor union activist Marvin Miller to form the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). The same year, Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale – both Cy Young Award winners for the Los Angeles Dodgers – refused to re-sign their contracts, and the era of the reserve clause, which held players to one team, was coming toward an end.
The first legal challenge came in 1970. Backed by the MLBPA, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Curt Flood took the leagues to court to negate a player trade, citing the 13th Amendment and antitrust legislation. In 1972 he finally lost his case in the United States Supreme Court by a vote of 5 to 3, but gained large-scale public sympathy, and the damage had been done. The reserve clause survived, but it had been irrevocably weakened. In 1975 Andy Messersmith of the Dodgers and Dave McNally of the Montreal Expos played without contracts, and then declared themselves free agents in response to an arbitrator's ruling. Handcuffed by concessions made in the Flood case, the owners had no choice but to accept the collective bargaining package offered by the MLBPA, and the reserve clause was effectively ended, to be replaced by the current system of free-agency and arbitration.
While the legal challenges were going on, the game continued. In 1969 the "Miracle Mets", just 7 years after their formation, recorded their first winning season, won the National League East and finally the World Series.
On the field, the 1970s saw some of the longest standing records fall and the rise of two powerhouse dynasties. In Oakland, the Swinging A's were overpowering, winning the Series in '72, '73 and '74, and five straight division titles. The strained relationships between teammates, who included Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue and Reggie Jackson, gave the lie to the need for "chemistry" between players. The National League, on the other hand, belonged to the Big Red Machine in Cincinnati, where Sparky Anderson's team, which included Pete Rose as well as Hall of Famers Tony Perez, Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan, succeeded the A's run in 1975.
The decade also contained great individual achievements as well. On April 8, 1974, Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves hit his 715th career home run, surpassing Babe Ruth's all-time record. He would retire in 1976 with 755. There was great pitching too: between 1973 and 1975, Nolan Ryan threw 4 "no-hit" games. He would add a record-breaking fifth in 1981 and two more before his retirement in 1993, by which time he had also accumulated 5,715 strikeouts, another record, in a 27-year career.
Read more about this topic: History Of Baseball In The United States
Famous quotes containing the words players and/or assert:
“I do not like football, which I think of as a game in which two tractors approach each other from opposite directions and collide. Besides, I have contempt for a game in which players have to wear so much equipment. Men play basketball in their underwear, which seems just right to me.”
—Anna Quindlen (b. 1952)
“The self ... might be regarded as a sort of citadel of the mind, fortified without and containing selected treasures within, while love is an undivided share in the rest of the universe. In a healthy mind each contributes to the growth of the other: what we love intensely or for a long time we are likely to bring within the citadel, and to assert as part of ourself. On the other hand, it is only on the basis of a substantial self that a person is capable of progressive sympathy or love.”
—Charles Horton Cooley (18641929)