Former Baseball Union Head Miller Dead at 95

Miller led the first walkout in baseball's history

By RONALD BLUM
|  Tuesday, Nov 27, 2012  |  Updated 11:24 AM EDT
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FILE - This Feb. 25, 2003, file photo shows Marvin Miller at his apartment in New York. Miller, the union leader who created free agency for baseball players and revolutionized professional sports with multimillion dollar contracts, died Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012 in New York.

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Marvin Miller, the union leader who created free agency for baseball players and revolutionized professional sports with multimillion dollar contracts, died Tuesday. He was 95.

Miller died at his home in Manhattan at 5:30 a.m., said his daughter Susan Miller. He had been diagnosed with liver cancer in August.

In his 16 years as executive director of the Major League Players Association, starting in 1966, Miller fought owners on many fronts, winning free agency for the players in December 1975. He may best be remembered, however, as the man who made the word "strike" stand for something other than a pitched ball.

Miller, who retired and became a consultant to the union in 1982, led the first walkout in the game's history 10 years earlier. On April 5, 1972, signs posted at major league parks simply said "No Game Today." The strike, which lasted 13 days, was to be followed by a walkout during spring training in 1976 and a midseason job action that darkened the stadiums for seven weeks in 1981.

Miller's ascension to the top echelon among sports labor leaders was by no means free from controversy among those he would represent. Players from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves, California Angels and San Francisco Giants opposed his appointment as successor to Milwaukee Circuit Court Judge Robert Cannon, who had counseled them on a part-time but unpaid basis.

Miller overcame the opposition, however, due in part to his demeanor.

"Some of the player representatives were leery about picking a union man," Hall of Fame pitcher and U.S. Senator Jim Bunning, a member of the screening committee that recommended Miller, recalled in a 1974 interview. "But he was very articulate ... not the cigar-chewing type some of the guys expected."

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