Marvin Miller was a labor economist who never played a day of organized baseball. He preferred tennis. Yet he transformed the national pastime as surely as Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, television and night games.
Miller, the union boss who won free agency for baseball players in 1975, ushering in an era of multimillion-dollar contracts and athletes who switch teams at the drop of a batting helmet, died Tuesday at 95. He had been diagnosed with liver cancer in August.
“I think he’s the most important baseball figure of the last 50 years,” former baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent said. “He changed not just the sport but the business of the sport permanently, and he truly emancipated the baseball player — and in the process all professional athletes. Prior to his time, they had few rights. At the moment, they control the games.”
In his 16˝ years as executive director of the Major League Players Association, starting in 1966, Miller fought owners on many fronts, not only achieving free agency but making the word “strike” stand for something other than a pitched ball.
Over the years, his influence on the game was widely acknowledged if not always honored. Baseball fans argue over whether he made the game fairer or more nakedly mercenary, and the Hall of Fame repeatedly rejected him.
Major League Baseball’s revenue has grown from $50 million in 1967 to $7.5 billion this year. At his last public speaking engagement, a discussion at New York University School of Law in April marking the 40th anniversary of the first baseball strike, Miller said free agency and resulting fan interest contributed to the increase. And both management and labor benefited, he said.
“I never before saw such a win-win situation in my life, where everybody involved in Major League Baseball, both sides of the equation, still continue to set records in terms of revenue and profits and salaries and benefits,” he said. He called it “an amazing story.”
Pettitte, Yanks near deal
Andy Pettitte and the New York Yankees are nearing agreement on a one-year contract in the range of $10 million to $12 million, a source said.
Pettitte, who turns 41 in June, retired after the 2010 season and then decided to come back and pitch last season.
Ruiz suspended 25 games
Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz was suspended for the first 25 games of next season following a positive test for an amphetamine.
The 33-year-old was an All-Star for the first time this year when he hit .325 with 16 homers and 68 RBI.
Ruiz will be eligible to participate in spring training, including exhibition games.
Cubs add Feldman to staff
The Chicago Cubs and former Texas Rangers pitcher Scott Feldman agreed to a one-year contract. Feldman, 29, is guaranteed $6 million next season and can earn another $1 million in incentives.
The right-hander was 39-44 with a 4.81 ERA over eight years with the Rangers, going 6-11 with a 5.09 ERA in 29 appearances (21 starts) last year.
Blue Jays add reliever
Toronto Blue Jays right-handed reliever Casey Janssen had surgery on his throwing shoulder and should be ready for spring training.
The team said that Janssen had the procedure Friday in Los Angeles to repair lingering joint soreness. The 31-year-old had the small portion of the end of his clavicle shaved down to relieve discomfort.