Marvin Miller, the man who changed the face of baseball and ultimately led to the creation of free agency, died early Tuesday after a long fight with cancer. He was 95.
Miller served as executive director of the Players Association from 1966-84, and won many battles with owners who had their own rules of running the game. In 1968 under Miller, players negotiated the first collective. Two years later, Miller helped negotiate the players' rights to arbitration to resolve disputes.
Free agency and salary arbitration changed the sport, and helped earn players billions of dollars. During Miller's run, the average players' salary went from $10,000 in 1967 to $329,000 by 1984, while the minimum salary increased from $6,000 to $40,000.
"Club owners had ruled baseball with an iron fist for nearly a century prior to Marvin Miller's appointment as the MLBPA's executive director," it reads on Miller's MLB.com biography page. "Players had no ability to choose their employer as they were tied to their original club by a 'reserve clause' in every player contract that provided for automatic renewal. Salaries and benefits were low, working conditions abysmal."
The loss of Miller was felt across all sports. The National Football League Players Association issued a statement.
"Marvin exemplified guts, tenacity and an undying love for the players he represented," NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said. "He was a mentor to me, and we spoke often and at length. His most powerful message was that players would remain unified during labor strife if they remembered the sacrifices made by previous generations to make the game better. His passion for the players never faltered, and men in women across all sports are in a better place thanks to his tireless work."
Added NFLPA President Domonique Foxworth: "Marvin was the definition of a leader. By challenging team owners and league commissioners and successfully protecting and enhancing the rights of players, he proved that labor unions were necessary in sports."