Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Flood Eulogized as Man Who Changed Baseball

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Flood Eulogized as Man Who Changed Baseball

Article excerpt

Curt Flood, whose outstanding baseball career effectively came to a premature end after he challenged baseball's reserve clause in the prime of his career, was eulogized Monday as an authentic American hero.

"Because he came our way, we are better," the Rev. Jesse Jackson said at a funeral service for Flood, who died Jan. 20 - two days after his 59th birthday - of throat cancer after a long stay at the UCLA Medical Center.

"Baseball didn't change Curt Flood - Curt Flood changed baseball," Jackson said. "Curt lost a case and won the race. Curt opened the floodgates (to free agency). He freed black, white and brown." Flood was a three-time All-Star and a seven-time Gold Glove winner who had a career batting average of .293. But his off-the-field impact was much greater on his sport and others. It all began after the 1969 season when Flood was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies by the Cardinals. He refused to report, instead asking then-Commissioner Bowie Kuhn to declare him a free agent. Flood then filed a lawsuit, claiming baseball had violated antitrust laws. The Supreme Court ruled against him in 1972, but in 1975 an arbitrator granted free agency to pitchers Dave McNally and Andy Messersmith, in effect ending the reserve system and clearing the way for today's free-agent system. "Curt Flood must go in the Hall of Fame," Jackson said. "Curt is the winner. People are better. America is better. "His contemporaries admired Curt, but they did not follow him. Don't feel sorry for Curt - he didn't lose. The Supreme Court lost. "Today, we celebrated the life and legacy of an authentic American hero." At age 31, Flood sat out the 1970 season. He then played in only 13 games for the Washington Senators in 1971 before retiring. Others who spoke at the service called "Curt's 9th Inning" at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church included Hall of Famer Bob Gibson and Bill White, teammates with the Cardinals; Donald Fehr, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, and author George Will. …

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