Curt Flood

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Commissioner Kuhn denied Flood's request for free agency, citing the propriety of the reserve clause and its inclusion in Flood's 1969 contract. On January 16, 1970, Flood filed a $1 million lawsuit against Kuhn and Major League Baseball, alleging violation of federal antitrust laws. [18] Flood likened the reserve clause to slavery. [19] [3] Among those testifying on his behalf were former players Jackie Robinson and Hank Greenberg, and former owner Bill Veeck; no active players testified, nor did any attend the trial. Although players' union representatives had voted unanimously to support Flood, rank-and-file players were strongly divided, with many avid supporters of the management position. [6]

Flood v. Kuhn (407 U.S. 258) was argued before the Supreme Court on March 20, 1972. [20] [21] [22] Flood's attorney, former Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, asserted that the reserve clause depressed wages and limited players to one team for life. Major League Baseball's counsel countered that Commissioner Kuhn had acted "for the good of the game."[ citation needed ] On June 19, 1972, the Supreme Court, invoking the principle of stare decisis ("to stand by things decided"), ruled 5–3 in favor of Major League Baseball, [23] [24] [25] citing as precedent a 1922 ruling in Federal Baseball Club v. National League (259 U.S. 200). Justice Lewis Powell recused himself owing to his ownership of stock in Anheuser-Busch, which owned the Cardinals. [6]

Despite the loss in the Supreme Court, the baseball player's union continued to push to eliminate the reserve clause. It was finally struck down in December 1975 in a case involving players Dave McNally and Andy Messersmith. In July 1976, the union and the baseball team owners agreed to a contract that included free agency. [26]

In 1998, the federal government passed the Curt Flood Act of 1998. [27] [28] The act, passed by the 105th Congress and signed into law by President Clinton, revokes baseball's antitrust status (save for expansion, minor leagues, and franchise relocation), a status that major league baseball had enjoyed for seventy-five years after the Supreme Court had ruled that baseball was eligible for the status under interstate commerce. [29] This act did exactly what Flood wanted; it stopped owners from controlling the players’ contracts and careers.

Flood also helped bring about the 10/5 Rule, also known as the Curt Flood Rule. The rule states that when a player has played for a team for five straight years and played in MLB for a total of ten years, they have to give the club their consent to be traded. [30]

Aftermath and post-baseball life

Final years in baseball

After Flood's lawsuit failed, Flood was blackballed from baseball. There were questions similar to “Do you realize you won’t be able to play in MLB ever again?” or “You realize you are going to lose your job?” Everyone Flood consulted was convinced he would be blackballed from baseball. Flood soon realized that his career was over as he later said,

It would be difficult to come back. And besides, I don’t think I’ll be getting the opportunity to play again. As big as it is, baseball is a closely-knit unit. I doubt even one of the 24 men controlling the game would touch me with a ten-foot (3 m) pole. You can’t buck the Establishment. [31]

Flood sat out the entire 1970 season. [6] During this period he was bombarded with hate mail from fans, who accused him of trying to destroy baseball; his teammate Bob Gibson estimated "He got four or five death threats a day." [32] The Cardinals sent two minor leaguers to the Phillies in compensation for Flood's refusal to report. One of themcenterfielder Willie Montañez went on to a 14-year major league career. In November 1970, the Phillies traded Flood and four other players to the Washington Senators. He signed a $110,000 contract with Washington but played only thirteen games of the 1971 season, with a .200 batting average and lackluster play in center field. Despite manager Ted Williams's vote of confidence, Flood left the team in late April and retired. [33] [34] [35] He had a lifetime batting average of .293 with 1,861 hits, 85 home runs, 851 runs, and 636 RBI. Defensively, Flood posted a .987 fielding percentage in his major-league career. [36] Later that year Flood published a memoir entitled The Way It Is in which he spelled out in detail his argument against the reserve clause. [10]


After his retirement, Flood purchased a bar in the resort town of Palma on the island of Majorca, where he had moved in the wake of the bankruptcy of his Curt Flood Associates business, two lawsuits, and an IRS lien on a home he bought for his mother. [10] He returned to baseball as a member of the Oakland Athletics broadcasting team in 1978. In 1988 he was named commissioner of the short-lived Senior Professional Baseball Association. [6] In the mid-1990s, he joined the management group of the United Baseball League (UBL), which was envisioned as a smaller alternative to MLB. While the group negotiated a long-term TV contract with Liberty Media, the deal (and the UBL) failed when Liberty was absorbed by MLB contractor Fox Sports. [37] In his spare time, he painted; his 1989 oil portrait of Joe DiMaggio sold at auction for $9,500 in 2006. [38]

Death and legacy

On January 20, 1997, just two days after his 59th birthday, Flood died at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, after developing pneumonia, [3] [39] [40] [41] and was interred in Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood. [42]

Just before his death, Flood's legacy was acknowledged in Congress in 1997 via the Baseball Fans and Communities Protection Act of 1997. [43] Numbered HR 21 (Flood's Cardinals uniform number) and introduced in the House of Representatives on the first day of the 105th Congress by Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D Michigan), the legislation established federal antitrust law protection for major league baseball players to the same extent as provided for other professional athletes.

Curt Flood is a nonparticipating but pivotal character in the book Our Gang by Philip Roth.[ citation needed ]

Flood's struggle for free agency was featured in Ken Burns' documentary series Baseball in 1994. He was inducted into the Baseball Reliquary's Shrine of the Eternals in 1999. [44]

In 2020, 102 members of the U.S. Congress wrote a letter to the Baseball Hall of Fame, co-signed by Players' unions from the NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLS, asking the Hall of Fame to admit Flood. [26]

Personal life and health

The gravesite of Curt Flood. Curt Flood Grave Sight.jpg
The gravesite of Curt Flood.

Flood was married twice and had five children. His first marriage was to Beverly Collins from 1959 until 1966, and together they had five children; Debbie, Gary, Shelly, Scott, and Curt Flood, Jr. Flood later married actress Judy Pace in 1986, whom he had met and dated previously from 1966 until 1970. They remained married until his death. [45] Diagnosed with throat cancer in 1995, Flood was initially given a 90–95 percent chance of survival. He underwent radiation treatments, chemotherapy, and throat surgery, which left him unable to speak. [46]

See also

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  1. Tomasik, Mark. "Jon Jay May Match Curt Flood as Flawless in Center" . Retrieved January 24, 2013.
    Curt Flood
    Curt Flood 58-69.JPG
    Flood with the Cardinals
    Center fielder
    Born:(1938-01-18)January 18, 1938
    Houston, Texas
    Died: January 20, 1997(1997-01-20) (aged 59)
    Los Angeles, California
    Batted: Right
    Threw: Right
    MLB debut
    September 9, 1956, for the Cincinnati Redlegs
    Last MLB appearance
    April 25, 1971, for the Washington Senators