When Carl Crawford is sipping his 1982 Chateau Margaux out of his diamond encrusted wine glass tonight, we hope he will raise his glass and offer a toast on the anniversary of the day that made his $142 million contract possible.It was 41 years ago today that the New York Times first reported Curt Flood was planning a lawsuit to challenge Major League Baseball’s reserve clause.
The “reserve clause” was a standard part of the player’s contract that allowed a team to retain a player’s rights even after that player’s contract had expired. Players could only sign a new contract with their current team unless they were released or traded.
But in 1969, Flood decided he was tired of being treated like “property,” and decided to stand up to the system. From the New York Times:
A major attack on the reserve clause, a feature of baseball contracts that binds a player to his original team and makes trades possible, is being mounted by Curt Flood, with Arthur Goldberg, a former United States Supreme Court Justice, as his counsel.
Flood had met with the Player’s Association to ask for their support. Interestingly, in doing so, Flood stopped short of comparing the reserve clause to slavery. But the Times article says he did admit that “being black perhaps made him more sensitive to issues of freedom and dignity.”
Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Major League Baseball, but their decision left open the possibility for closer examination and further challenges. The reserve clause was ultimately struck down in 1975.
But it was Curt Flood that gave players the hope of someday being able sell their services to the highest bidder. And among people that helped further the rights of all player’s, Flood may be surpassed only by Jackie Robinson. It is a shame more of today’s players don’t acknowledge that.
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