Marvin Miller, the union leader who helped create free agency for baseball players and in the process brought multimillion-dollar contracts to professional sports, died Tuesday at age 95.
Miller became executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association in 1966 after working with the steelworkers' union. He served for 16 years, building the MLBPA into one of the most powerful unions in the country.
He found that standard players contracts included a "reserve clause," which bound players to the team that originally signed them. Essentially, players had only two choices: accept the contract offered by the team or try to hold out for more money.
Slowly, Miller helped the players attain more negotiating rights, challenging the reserve clause in court.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the reserve clause in 1973, but free agency eventually came to the players in the mid-1970s.
Miller's tenure also featured two strikes, in 1972 and 1981.
After stepping down in 1982, Miller served as a consultant to the players' union.
In an interview with NY1's Budd Mishkin in 2000, Miller explained the bargaining power of unions.
"The only strength the union has in negotiations, or at any other time, is in their unity, making sure their members understand what the issues are, understand what the economic facts are and understand what the policies are," Miller said.
Hank Aaron, the famed Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves right fielder, was once quoted as saying Miller was "as important to the history of baseball as Jackie Robinson."
The minimum player contract in 1968 was $6,000 and in now, in 2012, it is $480,000.
On Tuesday morning, Miller died in his Manhattan home, following a battle with liver cancer.