Labor Leader Changed Professional Baseball

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), December 2, 2012 | Go to article overview

Labor Leader Changed Professional Baseball


Byline: From Daily Herald wire reports

Marvin Miller was a labor economist who never played a day of organized baseball. He preferred tennis. Yet he transformed the national pastime as surely as Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, television and night games.

Miller, the union boss who won free agency for baseball players in 1975, ushering in an era of multimillion-dollar contracts and athletes who switch teams at the drop of a batting helmet, has died at 95.

"I think hes the most important baseball figure of the last 50 years," former baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent said. "He changed not just the sport but the business of the sport permanently, and he truly emancipated the baseball player and in the process all professional athletes. Prior to his time, they had few rights. At the moment, they control the games."

Miller led players through three strikes and two lockouts. Baseball has had eight work stoppages in all.

When he took over, the union consisted of a $5,400 kitty and a battered file cabinet, and baseballs minimum salary was $6,000. By 1968, Miller had negotiated baseballs first collective bargaining agreement. By 1970, players obtained the right to take disputes to an arbitrator.

Nowadays, baseballs biggest stars make up to $32 million a season, the average salary is more than $3 million and the major league minimum is $480,000. While the NFL, NBA and NHL have salary caps, baseball does not.

Baseballs Hall of Fame refused to vote him in, despite five appearances on the ballot.

Mickey "Guitar" Baker, a guitarist who forged a link between rhythm-and-blues and early rock music and whose 1956 recording of "Love Is Strange" with singer Sylvia Robinson became a pop classic brimming with Latin rhythms and flirtatious banter, died Nov. 27 at his home near Toulouse, France. He was 87.

Bakers grounding in jazz guitar, coupled with his bluesy, at times distorted and aggressive sound propelled him to the front rank of New York studio guitarists in the 1950s.

On records, he accompanied singers Dinah Washington, Louis Jordan and Nappy Brown. Baker was particularly prolific at Atlantic Records, where his notable credits included The Robins "Smokey Joes Cafe" (1955), Ruth Browns "Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean" (1954), Joe Turners "Shake, Rattle and Roll" (1954), and LaVern Bakers two biggest hits, "Tweedle Dee" (1954) and "Jim Dandy" (1956).

In the 1960s, Baker moved to France, where he produced records by French pop stars and accompanied visiting American blues and jazz musicians, such as saxophonist Coleman Hawkins.

In Zig Ziglars world, the morning alarm rang on the "opportunity clock." And "if you arent on fire" when you get to work, "then your wood is wet." And you have to remember that "moneys not the most important thing in life, but its reasonably close to oxygen." And there will be setbacks, but "failure is an event, not a person."

Ziglar, a motivational speaker whose "Success Rallies," "Born to Win" seminars, more than 25 self-help books and countless audiotapes attracted millions of devoted followers with homespun advice on career advancement and moral uplift, has died at 86.

His first book, "Biscuits, Fleas, and Pump Handles," published in 1974 and later retitled "See You at the Top," urged readers to re-evaluate their lives with a "checkup from the neck up" and to quit their "stinkin thinkin. "

His book, "Confessions of a Grieving Christian," was written after the 1995 death of his oldest daughter, Suzan Ziglar Witmeyer, at the age of 46. …

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