Historical Player Profiles: Curt Flood

Curt Flood was a polarizing figure in baseball to say the very least. On the field, Flood was a great defensive center fielder with some pop in his bat as well. He came up with the Reds in 1956 at the age of 18, and was quickly traded to the Cardinals in 1958. With the Cards, he was a strong contributor to their 3 World Series appearances and 2 wins during the 60s. A consistent hitter (.293 with the Cardinals), he was known for his glove work in center field. From a fielding perspective, he was considered in the same breath with Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente (his co-gold glove winners from 1963-1969).

Curt Flood's biggest contribution to baseball occurred off the field relating to the labor struggle between players and owners. In 1969, Flood was traded from the Cardinals to the Phillies and refused to go. He challenged baseball's reserve clause, which basically stated that the rights of a player belonged to the team. Even if a contract had expired, the reserve clause meant that players were still under team control until traded or released. Flood felt this was unfair and likened it to a form of slavery or at the very least indentured servitude.

Although it would take some time, Flood's challenge would eventually make it to the Supreme Court. Essentially, the argument was that baseball had been acting against anti-trust laws. Baseball would eventually win the case, but the idea had taken shape and the war between owners and players had begun.

A few years later, during the 1972 strike, the owners and players agreed to binding arbitration. As part of the negotiations, pitchers Dave McNally and Andy Messersmith demanded free agent status, and the arbiter sided with them. Ultimately, it lifted the reserve clause. Flood succumbed to personal demons and left baseball in 1971 at the age of 33. The rest of his life was a personal struggle, and he never benefited from the change in baseball he helped pioneer. He watched as baseball salaries ballooned due to free agency while he remained in poor financial condition.

Indeed, we would not be seeing the huge contract circus surrounding players like Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Cliff Lee, Adrian Gonzalez, or Derek Jeter without Flood taking on the system. Flood lost a battle with cancer in 1997, but will be remembered for being one of the Godfathers of free agency. There is a very good documentary about Curt Flood on HBO right now that is worth checking out.

1 comment:

  1. Just watch it today and it was very good and informative. I felt bad for him because he thought the players would help him out for what he did for them. That help didn't come until it was too late. Good story about a guy who sacrificed his career so others would benefit and they did.


Copyright © 2012 FOR BASEBALL JUNKIES.