There are few institutions that commemorate tradition quite like Major League Baseball. A uniquely American establishment, its history mirrors that of the country of its origin. As baseball grew as a sport, the United States developed as a nation, battling corruption, racism, labor inequality and drugs to emerge as an imperfect endeavor perpetually attempting to push itself forward in the right direction.
Despite all of the commonalities, perhaps no feature acts as more of a link between baseball and America than the celebration of the individual. Just as Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr. and Neil Armstrong have come to represent American Independence, the Civil Rights Movement and the Apollo Moon Landing; baseball fans are more likely to cite Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays than the 1927 New York Yankees, the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers or the 1954 New York Giants.
It therefore seems strange that one individual, whose lasting impact on baseball outweighs almost any other single person’s contribution, should be so frequently overlooked, not only by a younger generation of baseball fans and players, but also by the very institution whose duty it is to preserve the game’s history, the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
I am writing about labor economist and former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association Marvin Miller, who died today at the age of 95. As iconic sportscaster Red Barber once said, “Marvin Miller, along with Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, is one of the two or three most important men in baseball history.”