The recent rumblings that Commissioner Bug Selig may consider lifting the ban on Pete Rose and allow him in the chance of getting into the Hall of Fame got me to thinking: if Rose is being considered why isn’t….
Not so fast.
Without question 1969 was a historic year in society and sports. Man walked on the moon. In sports Rod Laver won the Grand Slam of tennis. The New York Jets behind quarterback Joe Namath “guarantee” beat the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Bill Russell led his Boston Celtics to an NBA Championship as player/coach. The New York “Ya Gotta Believe” Mets won the World Series.
Watching the Major League All-Star game in St. Louis several weeks ago ignited memories of those great Cardinal teams of the 1960’s with Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Tim McCarver, Bill White, and Roger Maris. But there was a diminutive center fielder that was fleet of foot, hit for average, stole bases, and was a gold-glover with the Cardinals. This player was a part of two Cardinal World Series Championships in 1964 and 1967.
Who is this man?
When covering last years World Series I spoke to one of Flood’s teammates FOX Baseball Sports Analyst Tim McCarver. I asked McCarver point blank should Curt Flood be in the Hall of Fame. He responded, “Without question Curt Flood belongs in the Hall of Fame. He was great baseball player, a great man and he was my friend.”
Then I spoke with MLB.COM and television analyst Harold Reynolds. On whether Flood belongs in the Hall of Fame Reynolds responded, "Yes. When you look at both his play and what he did off the field there’s no doubt. When you look at what he did as a player and what he did to help players he should be in the Hall of Fame. As a player alone it's arguable whether he should be there or not but when you look at the social significance Curt Flood should be in the Hall of Fame."
Flood’s numbers on the field:
*Lifetime batting average of .293
*1861 career hits
*7X gold glove winner
*2X World Series Champion
*When he retired in 1971 he’d played more games in center field in National League history except for Willie Mays and Richie Asburn.
Now for what Flood did off the field.
In 1969 Flood was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. Flood refused to report to the Phillies because he felt the trade wasn’t just. Back in the day baseball operated on the “reserve clause.” That meant owners essentially owned the players. Owners could trade or cut a player and there wasn’t anything they could do about it.
The latter clearly violated Americas’ anti-trust laws. But legal deity Oliver Wendell Holmes stated that Major League baseball would be exempt from anti-trust laws thus enabling owners to exercise total control over players.
Flood didn’t agree with the trade, the reserve clause, or Oliver Wendell Holmes. He felt if he there was a decision being made on his fate he should be involved in the decision-making process. Flood boldly sued major league baseball in 1970. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court where he lost on a vote of 5-3.
Though Flood didn’t win he opened the door that Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally to ultimately would walk through in 1975 giving birth to free agency. Shortly before he died in 1997 Flood stated, “All of the grand work was laid for people who came after me. The Supreme Court decided not to give it to me, so they gave it to the two white guys. I think that’s what they were waiting for.”
Flood sacrificed his career for the betterment of all players. On the field his accomplishments are noteworthy and warrant strong Hall of Fame consideration: his off the field heroism only adds to his forgotten work of legend.
Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, and Bill White are on the Veterans Committee. They went to war with Flood during the 1960’s yet they seemingly have nothing to say about their late friend getting his just due?
Jackie Robinson provided African Americans a chance to play the baseball. Flood is an overlooked pioneer who allowed all players to get paid. It would be nice for the Hall of Fame to pay Curt Flood back for what he did on the field as well as off it.
If Pete Rose is kept out of the Hall of Fame for what he did off the field that shamed the game why shouldn’t Flood be in the Hall of Fame for righting an obvious wrong that benefited the game?
Put Curt Flood in the Hall of Fame.