Every professional athlete who ever took their $200,000 Maybach off the dealership curb at 120mph would do well to spend some time with Curt Flood - familiarizing themselves with the man who single-handedly made their bling, their "ride" and their brain dead self-involvement not only possible but, with a nod to the school of unintended consequences, the mother's milk of SportsCenter, MTV and countless police blotters.
Unfortunately, the only thing you might hear over the drone of 350 horses is... "Curt Who?"
Under the exceptionally detailed eye of author Brad Snyder, Curt Flood emerges as the Meridian between sports eras - the pre-Flood reliance on the innocence of gee-wiz heroism (Mantle, Unitas) juxtaposed against the new school emphasis on superstar "brand management" and the unbridled, zero-sum economics that feeds the "Moneyball" mind-set of Personal Seat Licenses, $15 Heinekens and PPV revenue schemes.... Lease Me Some Peanuts and Cracker Jack!
Flood risked (and ultimately lost everything) to challenge Major League Baseball's "reserve clause" in order to void his trade from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1970, attempting to abolish a rule that had effectively bound a player to the same team for life since the 1920's.
A well-paid, better-than-average outfielder, Flood had nothing to gain by taking on Baseball, and some would argue, none of the classic attributes normally associated with leaders of movements - except for his gut that kept telling him the "clause" was fundamentally wrong. In retrospect, can you really blame anyone for not wanting to move to Philadelphia!?
Flood's story is not only a profile in courage but a cautionary tale about an (extra) ordinary individual who ignites a chain of events that quickly spiral beyond his control.
What is so fascinating about the story is the inside game - an initially reluctant Marvin Miller (former head of the MLB players union) the hostility of his fellow ballplayers who simply didn't want to rock the boat and the petty machinations of then Commissioner Bowie Kuhn who tried to kill Flood's baby in the crib. In one court challenge after another, Flood was turned away and ultimately lost in a last-stand challenge to the Supreme Court.
As an aside, Flood's hiring of former Supreme Court Justice, Arthur Goldberg to argue the case before his former colleagues is especially horrifying as Goldberg's preoccupation and distraction with his own political ambitions undermined his preparation and ultimately doomed Flood's last chance at legal redemption.
In the aftermath of his "defeat", Flood's life is one long tailspin. After one listless stint with the Washington Senators in 1971 (his frosty relationship with Ted Williams Washington's legendary manager, turned frozen entrée, is a tasty sidebar.) Flood's baseball career expires, leaving him to drift between Europe and the US with financial and marital ruin following in his wake.
Only towards the end of his life did he fully comprehend that MLB's near-death experience at his hands paved the way for the abolition of the Reserve Clause in 1975 - ultimately re-proving the age-old adage that a principle is not really a principle until it costs you something. A must read for Scott Boras, A-Rod - and anyone else in MLB's current firmament who believes it's all about them.
It has been so many years since the events depicted in "A Well Paid Slave" took place that I had largely forgotten a good deal of the story. In fact, I am ashamed to admit that I was unaware or had completely forgotten that Curt Flood passed away more than a decade ago. The story of Curt Flood was one that desperately needed to be told. I certainly needed to be reminded of the tremendous sacrifices that this man made when he gave up literally everything to challenge baseball's sacrosanct … more
Curt Flood and the landmark Supreme Court case that changed professional sports forever Upon being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1969, Curt Flood, an All-Star center fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, wanted nothing more than to stay with St. Louis. But his only options were to report to Philadelphia or retire. Instead, Flood sued Major League Baseball for his freedom, hoping to invalidate the reserve clause in his contract, which bound a player to his team for life. Flood took his lawsuit all the way to the Supreme Court, and though he ultimately lost, his decision to sue cost him his career and a chance at the Hall of Fame. But Flood's place in baseball history, like that of Jackie Robinson's, extends far beyond his accomplishments on the ballfield. Just three years later, the era of free agency that all professional athletes enjoy today became a reality. In A Well-Paid Slave, the first extended treatment of Flood and his lawsuit, Brad Snyder examines this long-misunderstood case and its impact on professional sports. He reveals the twisted logic and behind-the-scenes vote switching behind the court's decision and explains Flood's decision to sue in the context of his experiences during the civil rights movement. Astutely and dramatically told, A Well-Paid Slave will appeal broadly to fans of sports history, legal affairs, and American culture.