The Nub

The Nub

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Baseball and the High Court: Final Score Is Not Game’s End

The man whose sacrifice freed baseball players from a form of servitude would have been 73 this week.   Curt Flood’s name should rank with that of Jackie Robinson.  As a pioneering black major leaguer, cialis usa buy viagra Jackie faced prejudice, help even hatred, rx in the fight for racial justice.  Flood fought a long, less dramatic battle for economic justice, and, when it was won, could not benefit from the victory.

Flood took his case, challenging the Cardinals’ right to trade him to another team and city, to the Supreme Court in 1972.  The Court turned Flood away, upholding baseball’s power to treat players like private property.  Much like their reaction to the High Court’s Citizens United ruling a year ago, some of the media attacked the ’72 decision as a victory for corporate rights over human rights.  The outcry, also voiced in Congress, eventually forced baseball to negotiate player-liberating reforms that led to the free-agent system.

Are similar reforms possible now in reaction to Citizens United?  With Team GOP in control of Congress, it’s a long shot.  But strong public support for legislation that would require corporations to show how they spend money on elections could rally enough bipartisan backing for such a “people’s” initiative.  Still another remote, but not unreal, possibility: passage of a law setting up a public financing system that would give clout to small donors.  The system in NYC is a model of what could happen nationwide.  The city matches small donations at a 6-1 ratio, making grass-roots fundraising competitive in importance to the seeking of corporate money.

If nothing else, greater disclosure and public financing could become potent populist   issues in the 2012 election. 

Aftermath:  Back to Flood, who sat out the 1970 season (for which he would have earned almost $100,000) and the one in ’71 while his case moved slowly to the Supreme Court.  Without a paying job, he was nearly destitute when the legal game ended.  Flood wound up scrimping, drinking, suffering a series of marital breakups and experiencing always a sense of ostracism from the game he loved.  He couldn’t get employment with a team or even with the players union, which had financed the case.

And when, at 59, Flood died of cancer – 14 years ago last Sunday – not a single active player attended his funeral.  Union reps David Cone and Tom Glavine issued a prepared statement instead, acknowledging the loss.  Brad Snyder, a Washington, D.C. lawyer, paid proper tribute to Flood.  Snyder sidelined his legal career to tell Curt’s story in a moving 2006 book called “A Well-Paid Slave.”  This is how the book ends:

“(Jackie) Robinson and Flood took professional athletes on an incredible journey – from racial desegregation to well-paid slavery to being free and extremely well paid.  Robinson started the revolution by putting on a uniform.  Flood finished it by taking his off.”

  Warmth for the Rays and A’s:  The Rays may have slipped as AL East title threats with the departures of Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano, Matt Garza, Carlos Pena, etc., but they still rank high in one way in Boston, NY and elsewhere.  Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez may both be over the hill, but the excitement they bring gives the Rays at least as much fan appeal as they had with their former stars.  And, since it’s always fun for NYY fans to see old friend Hideki Matsui, the A’s should be more welcome than usual at the Stadium this year.

A Minnesota Chill Ahead?  The Twins as a rule are more efficient than colorful.  This season their effectiveness will depend in large part on the contributions of two returning convalescents: Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan.  The Twins were content to keep two other key performers this post-season, re-signing Carl Pavano and Nathan.  But they lost relievers Jesse Crain to the White Sox and Matt Guerrier to the Dodgers, so they could wind up skating on thin Minnesota ice. 

The Mets, we know, have their Morneau-medical-equivalent in Jason Bay.  Justin and Jason, both Canadians from British Columbia, are returning after suffering concussions. Morneau had an infield-impact incident, Bay collided with an outfield wall.  Both profess to be healthy again.  Comparing their play will be an interesting statistical sidelight this season.