SAN DIEGO — Marvin Miller never threw a pitch or hit a home run in the majors, but the former union chief will be posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame in July, a testament to how he forever changed the game, to the immeasurable benefit of those who actually play it.
Miller, elected Sunday night by the 16-member Modern Era Baseball Committee, was the labor pioneer who pushed for free agency after the 1974 season, and the windfall of his work resonates to this day in a way that statistics can’t touch — unless those numbers have to do with contracts. And even though salaries increased tenfold during his tenure, not even Miller could have imagined a time when someone like Mike Trout would receive an extension worth $430 million.
Despite his longstanding influence on the sport, Miller was previously denied seven times by various Hall of Fame committees, and he received the minimum 75 percent (12 votes of a possible 16) necessary for enshrinement on this try. Miller retired in 1982 and passed away in 2012 at the age of 95.
“Players are pleased that Marvin will now take his rightful and long overdue place in the Hall of Fame in recognition of the monumental and positive impact he had on our game and our industry,” MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said Sunday in a statement.
Even so, Miller’s approval still felt like a bit of an upset, based on decades of being turned down. Ted Simmons (13 votes) was the only other candidate elected from a group of 10 that included Dwight Evans (eight), Dave Parker (seven), Steve Garvey (six) and Lou Whitaker (six). Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Thurman Munson and Dale Murphy each received three or fewer votes.
Simmons, a switch-hitting catcher, finished with a .285 batting average over 21 seasons with three teams, most notably the Cardinals. Among players who appeared in at least 50 percent of their games at catcher, Simmons ranks second in hits, doubles and RBIs and is fifth in runs scored.
“This is a great, great day in my life,” Simmons said during a conference call. “It’s obviously a very special day for me and Marvin’s family and I’m just very, very pleased to be a part of it.”
While Simmons certainly has a deserving resume, the criteria for such committee-driven elections appeared to shift considerably last year when Harold Baines was voted in by a 16-member panel that included two of his former White Sox bosses, Tony La Russa and Jerry Reinsdorf. With Baines established as the new bar, it could be argued that more of this year’s group should have earned admittance to Cooperstown.
The Modern Era Baseball Committee is one of a handful of 16-member panels established to consider players who no longer appear on the BBWAA ballot. This year’s panel was made up of three distinct profiles: Hall of Famers (George Brett, Rod Carew, Dennis Eckersley, Eddie Murray, Ozzie Smith, Robin Yount); MLB executives (Sandy Alderson, Dave Dombrowski, David Glass, Walt Jocketty, Doug Melvin, Terry Ryan) and four veteran media members/historians.
The last time Miller missed on Cooperstown, in 2017, he fell short by one vote, and Jack Morris, an inductee that year, spoke out against what he saw as an injustice.
“All I can say is I owe him a great bit,” Morris said then. “My life changed because of his hard work to put us on the map, and I think there’s a whole generation of people playing the game today that have no idea what he did to help us, and that’s a regret. I hope they take the time to learn who he is, what he did.”
The Hall of Fame should help.