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 reserve clause in 1970. Oddly enough author Brad Snyder thought that the story of Curt Flood was so compelling that he abruptly quit his job at a prominent Washington D.C. law firm in order to devote full time to writing "A Well Paid Slave". This is a story of a man who was willing to put it all on the line for the principles he believed in. He seemed to be fully aware of the ramifications of his decision. Yet, as you will discover Curt Flood paid a price far greater than he, his legal team, or his small cadre of supporters could ever have imagined. Indeed, life would never ever be the same for the former St. Louis Cardinals centerfielder.
By way of review, or for those too young to remember, the event that triggered this historic chain of events was the news shortly after the 1969 season that the St. Louis Cardinals had sent Curt Flood to the Philadelphia Phillies as part of a seven player swap. After a dozen notable seasons with the Cardinals what really irritated and hurt Flood the most was that he first learned of the deal from a reporter. And when the Cardinals finally did call to inform him of the trade the caller was not General Manager Bing Devine but one of his assistants. Flood was furious and immediately vowed that he would never report to the Phillies. In Flood's view baseball players were being treated like cattle. The reserve clause essentially bound a player to his team for life. For 90 years, baseball players had been bought and sold without any regard whatsoever to the players wishes. Flood recalled the time in 1957 when as a young Cincinnati Reds farmhand he was told that he had been traded to St. Louis. Curt Flood vowed right then and there that he would never again submit himself to a trade. True to his word Curt Flood announced that he would retire rather than report to the Phillies.
The idea for suing Major League Baseball over the reserve clause was first proposed in a meeting Flood had with St. Louis attorney Allan H. Zerman in early 1970. This was Zerman's idea. The more Curt Flood thought about it the more he was convinced that he was the man to challenge Major League Baseball's anti-trust exemption and ultimately the reserve clause. Shortly thereafter he decided to call Marvin Miller. The rest is history. Throughout "A Well Paid Slave" author Brad Snyder does a workmanlike job of tracing the long and winding road that Flood's legal case would take. Curt Flood and his legal team were under no illusions. They knew they were in for a long and bloody battle that they were likely to lose. MLB would use its vast influence and political connections to make sure that the status quo would be preserved. And like Curt Flood, readers are bound to get a bit upset when they read about some of the shenanigans that took place at the Supreme Court while this case was being considered. Brad Snyder also spends a great deal of time focusing on Curt Flood's personal life both during the time of the litigation and after. Sad to say this part of the story has more downs that ups but it is very important that people understand what Curt Flood went through in order to change a blatantly unfair system. In the end Curt Flood would fail in his attempt to overturn the reserve clause. But no one can deny that it was his courageous decision to press the issue that paved the way for free agency as we know it today.
Without a doubt, "A Well Paid Slave" is one of the most meticulously documented books I have ever read. There are 80 pages of notes at the end of the book! This book grabbed my attention in the first few pages and I simply could not put it down. Like the man this book is about "A Well Paid Slave" certainly deserved a lot more attention than it got. This is a book that can be enjoyed by a wide audience that would include sports fans, history buffs and general readers as well. Obviously, it goes without saying that this one should be required reading for all professional athletes who owe a debt of gratitude to a man who chose to make a stand. Very highly recommended.
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 … more
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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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.