The Impact of Curt Flood's Minor League Baseball Experiences on His Lawsuit against Bowie Kuhn

By Edmonds, Ed | Nine, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

The Impact of Curt Flood's Minor League Baseball Experiences on His Lawsuit against Bowie Kuhn


Edmonds, Ed, Nine


On October 8, 1969, Curt Flood, the St. Louis Cardinals star center fielder for more than a decade, received a telephone call from Jim Toomey, an assistant to St. Louis general manager Bing Devine, to inform him that he had just been traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. (1) A trade in Major League Baseball was not unusual. It had happened many times before and to some of baseball's greatest stars. (2) Curt Flood, however, vowed not to accept what he considered an affront to his basic human dignity. Instead of swallowing his pride and moving to Philadelphia, Flood decided to sue Major League Baseball and its commissioner, Bowie Kuhn. The U.S. Supreme Court had already upheld Major League Baseball and its reserve system in two cases, Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore, Inc. v. National League of Professional Baseball Clubs and Toolson v. New York Yankees. (3) Although Marvin Miller, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, honestly explained to Flood that his lawsuit had little chance of success, Flood would not be discouraged. (4) Facing an almost certain end to his playing career, Flood spent three years pursuing his crusade to the U.S. Supreme Court. Despite the assistance of former Supreme Court justice Arthur Goldberg, Flood's legal team could not persuade the Court to overrule its two prior decisions. Curt Flood, however, had struck a blow for basic human dignity. He sensitized players who refused to support him at his trial in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to the fundamental unfairness of a system that disallowed them the basic decision as to where and for whom to work. (5) Although Flood lost his quest, two white ballplayers would win free agency from a panel of arbitrators in 1975. (6) The modern era of free agency for professional athletes was born. Today's players enjoy salaries that far exceed the average American worker. However, few understand the sacrifice that Curt Flood made on their behalf.

What motivated Flood to file his lawsuit and pursue it with such vigor? The self-professed "child of the sixties" was a complex and sensitive man. (7) Judy Pace, Curt Flood's widow, offered her insight on why her husband, an African American man, would challenge baseball during the decade of the Civil Rights Movement:

When you think about it, it's not surprising that a black man did this.
A white man was not going to have that consciousness. A white man was
not walking around thinking, my rights are always being penalized.

That's what Curt called it--the penalty of being black. There were always penalties for being black. If you never had that inflicted on you, then you might think everything was okay. (8)

Curt Flood's crusade, however, transcended race. William C. Rhoden explained this eloquently:

What made Flood's fight resonate is that at one level his battle went
beyond race. Flood said he was filing this suit against a "situation"
that was "improper" for all ballplayers. Many white players never
thought of themselves as being on a plantation or as being only so much
chattel. But the legacy of black people in sports had sensitized Flood;
that history had tuned him in to a different frequency than white
players had access to. He used the insight of that legacy to help all
players, black and white, fight a corrupt system. (9)

A major part of what "sensitized Flood" was his two years of Minor League baseball in the Jim Crow South. Flood, like so many baseball players who faced a climb through Minor League baseball in the decade after Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball's racial barrier, endured the brunt of white Americans who refused to accept the basic rights of an African American to play the national pastime on the same field as white players. (10) Flood possessed complex reasons for not accepting a trade from one employer to another. However, it would probably be an error to discount his Minor League experience as anything less than a significant factor in his decision to write Commissioner Bowie Kuhn:

After twelve years in the major leagues, I do not feel that I am a piece
of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes. … 

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Impact of Curt Flood's Minor League Baseball Experiences on His Lawsuit against Bowie Kuhn
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.