From SABR member Graham Womack at The Sporting News on July 6, 2016:
The first thing and most important thing to know about Curt Flood’s Hall of Fame candidacy is that he didn’t topple the Reserve Clause in Major League Baseball, at least not single-handedly.
Sure, it was a big deal when the veteran center fielder refused to report to the Philadelphia Phillies after a December 1969 trade from the St. Louis Cardinals. “After twelve years in the Major Leagues, I do not feel I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes,” Flood told Commissioner Bowie Kuhn in a subsequent letter.
Important words, absolutely. A key part of a larger battle? Almost certainly. The crushing blow? Not at all.
Flood took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he lost by a 5-3 vote in 1972. The Reserve Clause remained. It wasn’t until December 23, 1975 that arbitrator Peter Seitz abrogated the clause and gave players the right to free agency in a case that involved pitchers Dave McNally and Andy Messersmith.
Flood didn’t figure into the McNally and Messersmith case. Still, myths persist about his role in bringing about free agency. He tied for 10th in a 2014 project I conducted, having readers vote on the 25 most important people in baseball history.
- Related link: Read the SABR biography of Curt Flood, by Terry Sloope
Originally published: July 6, 2016. Last Updated: July 6, 2016.