A bipartisan group from Congress is leading the drive to see the late Curt Flood elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, 50 years after he challenged the power of Major League Baseball owners.
On Thursday, Rep. David Trone (D-Md.), Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) held a news conference in Washington, D.C., urging the Golden Era Committee to elect Flood when it meets in December. More than 100 lawmakers signed a letter in support that was sent to Jane Forbes Clark, chairwoman of the Hall of Fame.
Flood was a center fielder with the St. Louis Cardinals from 1958-69 and was part of two World Series-winning teams. A three-time All-Star, he won seven straight Gold Glove Awards (1963-69).
Following the 1969 season, the Cardinals traded Flood to Philadelphia. In December of that year, Flood sent a letter to commissioner Bowie Kuhn, refusing the trade on the grounds that the reserve clause, which gave teams control over players, wasn't right.
The following month, he sued Kuhn. And while the courts ruled in favor of the commissioner, Flood's actions led to the start of free agency in 1975.
"Curt Flood changed the game of baseball when he courageously spoke truth to power in the name of what was right," Trone said. "Flood sacrificed his own career so players after him could have free agency, leaving one of the biggest impacts on the game to this day. It's about time we all come together to recognize these distinctly American actions and induct Curt Flood into the Hall of Fame."
"A copy of the letter Curt Flood wrote in 1969 is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and he should be there too," Blunt said. "As a lifelong Cardinals fan, I have always admired the talent he brought to the game and his bravery off the field. He deserves to be honored with his rightful place alongside America's greatest baseball players."
The legislators were joined Thursday by representatives from the players unions from other major sports, who are backing the effort.
"Curt Flood's historic challenge of the reserve clause a half century ago transcended baseball," the associations representing NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS and NHL players said in a statement posted to social media. "He courageously sacrificed his career to take a stand for the rights of all players in professional sports, bringing the issue of free agency to the forefront of national discussion."
Flood sat out the 1970 season, and that November, he was traded to the Washington Senators. He agreed to a contract with the Senators but played just 13 games in 1971 before retiring.
He had a career .293 batting average and hit 271 doubles and 85 home runs to go with 636 RBIs.
His name appeared on the Baseball Writers Association of America Hall of Fame ballot 15 times. In his final year of eligibility in 1996, Flood gained 15.1 percent of the vote.
Flood died in 1997, just two days after his 59th birthday, of complications of throat cancer.
--Field Level Media