On This Date in Sports March 5, 1966: The Steel Man

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

The players of Major League Baseball announced the formation of a Players' Union. The MLB Players' Association hired Marvin Miller to run the new union. Miller had previously been the President of the United Steelworkers. The United Steelworkers were the third-largest union in America at the time. Under Marvin Miller's guidance, the MLBPA became the most powerful union in sports, ending the reserve clause and ushering in the era of free agency. 

Marvin Miller was born on April 14, 1917, in the Bronx. Growing up in Flatbush, Miller was a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers. His father was a clothing salesman, while his mother was a teacher. From an early age, Miller marched at union rallies with both of his parents. After graduating from New York University with a degree in economics, Marvin Miller worked with the National War Labor Board and helped resolve disputes. He would later work with the United Auto Workers and International Association of Machinists before going to work for U.S. Steel. 

As Spring Training began in 1966, the big story was the holdout of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. At the time, players were still beholden to the reserve clause and had no say in their contract. They were forced to take whatever the teams wanted to give them and had no recourse to get a better deal. Koufax and Drysdale, the two best pitchers in baseball, wanted a deal equivalent to the $125,000 that Willie Mays received from the San Francisco Giants. The Dodgers offered Koufax $100,000 and Drysdale $85,000. The two Dodgers hurlers wanted three-year deals with salaries of $167,000 per year. Fans and the media did not take kindly to the holdout. Much to the chagrin of GM Buzzie Bavasi, Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley got involved and settled with the Dodgers aces. Sandy Koufax got $125,000 while Don Drysdale got $110,00. The Dodgers went to second straight World Series but lost their crown to the Baltimore Orioles, who won four straight. 

The holdout was the first significant act of player revolt in 75 years. The Player's Association benefited from the Koufax and Drysdale holdout as Marvin Miller was elected by an overwhelming majority to become the union's first director. Over the next ten years, Miller and the MLBPA would work to end the reserve clause. While they lost the battle with Curt Flood, they ultimately won the war as Free Agency began in 1976.

Marvin Miller remained the executive director for the MLB Players' Association until 1965. After his retirement, he stayed on as a consultant to Donald Fehr for 20 years. Miller died at the age of 95 in 2012. Eight years later, he was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame.