Martryrdom, for those who don't know it or never thought about, is vastly overrated.
It usually means taking a bullet for a team of ingrates who promptly forget your sacrifice to be followed by successive generations who don't realize that any sacrifice was ever necessary.
That pretty much sums up what happened to Curt Flood, a great centerfielder in the 1960s for the St. Louis Cardinals. He forfeited a handsome paycheck and a long career in Major League Baseball to challenge the legal right of team owners to own players in perpetuity.
What happened to Flood is not pretty, but it's a great story. That's why this pseudo-intellectual, while eschewing martyrdom personally, heartily recommends "A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood's Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports" by Brad Snyder. It would would make an excellent Christmas present for anyone interested in sports, law or a mix of the two.
It's difficult to imagine, particularly for younger fans, that there were days when athletes worked for relatively meager wages and belonged to the teams for which they played until the teams didn't want them anymore.
Players could sign with the teams that owned them or not play. The notion that they should be allowed to choose their employer not only was considered a threat to competitive balance but a violation of baseball's reserve clause, which had been affirmed in two old and foolish decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The court decisions essentially held that Major League Baseball was not subject to the anti-trust laws because the business of baseball was not interstate commerce and therefore not subject to the same federal employment laws that governed businesses that were interstate commerce. Ironically, businesses considered to be interstate commerce included all professional sports except baseball.
It was preposterous. But the law was the law, and players lived with it until 1969, when Flood was one of three players (Bill White and Tim McCarver) sent to the Philadelphia Phillies for, among others, Richie Allen. Flood, a proud, intelligent man sensitive to slight, vowed not to go to Philadelphia and decided to mount another challenge to the reserve clause in the courts.
Flood's decision was noble, selfless, foolish and self-destructive. It ruined his life for the next 20 years. He was crushed by the emotional and financial burdens he assumed. Although his legal fees were paid by the players' union, then led by Marvin Miller, Flood was abandoned by players who feared jeopardizing their own careers if they got too close to him and his case. Isolated, ostracized and destitute, Flood became his own worst enemy.
But this is a story about more than one man battling the system. It's also about a significant legal case [–] the litigators, the judges, the law and the ultimate decision rejecting Flood's claim [–] that helped change the face of professional sports.
Baseball won the battle of the Flood case. But not long after, it lost the war over the reserve clause, thanks to the genius of Miller, one of the history's great labor leaders. Flood was destroyed in the battle, so he wasn't around to benefit when the war ended. Most of today's players don't even know the name of the man who laid the legal groundwork for the professional freedom and astounding wealth they not only enjoy but take for granted.
Here are revious recommendations from Jim's Pseudo-Intellectual Book Club.
[–] "Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II's Most Dramatic Mission" by Hampton Sides.
[–] "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" by Edmund Morris.
[–] "A Night to Remember" by Walter Lord.
[–] "April 1865: The Month That Saved America" by Jay Winik.
[–] "Seabiscuit: An American Legend" by Laura Hillenbrand.
[–) "Lindbergh" by A. Scott Berg.
[–] "The Kennedy Men: 1901-1963" by Laurence Leamer.
[–] "The Brother: The Untold Story of the Rosenberg Case" by Sam Roberts.
[–) "Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy" by Jane Leavy.
[–] "Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions" by Ben Mezrich.
[–] "Harry & Ike: The Partnership That Remade the Post-War World" by Steve Neal.
[–] "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game" by Michael Lewis.
[–)"Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley & Livingstone" by Martin Dugard.
[–] "In Harms Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors" by Doug Stanton.
[–] "Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34." by Bryan Burrough.
[–] "Flags of our Fathers," by James Bradley.
[–] "Cary Grant: A Biography" by Marc Elliot.
[–] "Three Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager" by Buzz Bissinger.
[–] "Boss Tweed: The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York" by Kenneth Ackerman.
[–] "They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967" by David Maraniss.
[–)Flashman" (a novel) by George MacDonald Fraser.
[–] "Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling and A World on the Brink" by David Margolick.
[–] "Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics and the Battle for the Soul of a City" by Jonathan Mahler.
[–] "Five Families: the Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires" by Selwyn Raab.
[–] "The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and the Golden Age of Basketball." by John Taylor.
[–] "American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies" by Michael Kauffman.
[–] "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11" by Lawrence Wright.