Jim Williams: Baseball loses union legend Marvin Miller

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Marvin Miller was the head of the Major League Baseball Players Association from 1966 through 1982, and his death Tuesday at the age of 95 closes the chapter on one of the most influential men in sports history. When it comes to Miller's importance to baseball, the game we know right now would not exist without his strong impact on how the players were treated by the owners.

He made the Major League Baseball Players Association one of the most powerful unions in this country.

Miller loved doing battle with the owners and prided himself on winning key points for the MLBPA.

In his 17 years in charge, Miller oversaw Major League Baseball's first collective-bargaining agreement in 1968. In 1970, he helped negotiate the players' rights to arbitration in order to resolve grievances. That all led to Miller's biggest achievement which came in 1976 when he successfully challenged the reserve clause after Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally played out the option years of their contract. Players were granted free agency after six years of major league service, which was formalized in the next collective bargaining agreement.

He withstood three strikes and two lockouts and positioned the players to see their salaries go from an average of $10,000 per year in 1967 to $329,000 by 1984.

Miller was a hard-nosed negotiator who commanded and got the full support of the MLBPA, which never questioned his leadership. When he left the MLBPA, he handpicked his successor in his young right-hand man Don Fehr.

Fehr was as hard-nosed as his mentor, and he kept the MLBPA one of the most powerful unions in this country before handing over the reins over to Michael Weiner in 2009.

"It is a tremendous oversight that Miller is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame," NBC and MLB Network baseball analyst Bob Costas said. "By far he was one of the most important men in shaping the sport, and for him not to be in the Hall is a crime."

He fell short in the executive balloting in 2003, 2007 and again last year, with Hall of Famers Joe Morgan and Tom Seaver endorsing Miller. After the 2011 vote, Miller requested that his name not be put on the ballot any longer.

Examiner columnist Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. Follow him on Twitter @wordmandc.

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