Players Association celebrates 50 years of unity

Generations of players and special guests came together Monday night in San Diego to celebrate the Major League Baseball Players Association's 50 years of unity and achievements.

To help recognize its 50th anniversary, the MLBPA held an exclusive rooftop party for current and former players at the Omnia nightclub before moving downstairs for its annual after-hours All Star Player Party bash. Renowned DJ Cassidy and Hollywood star and Oscar winner Jamie Foxx entertained a packed club into the early-morning hours.

"Ladies and gentleman, to 50 years and to 50 more," executive director Tony Clark toasted, bringing the night of festivities to a climax as Foxx took the stage.

Foxx, the multi-talented actor, singer, songwriter and comedian, wowed the crowd at the party -- which was presented by sponsors Sony and Majestic -- with a performance tailored for the Players Association and guests.

A couple hours earlier, all-time greats like Orlando Cepeda, Reggie Jackson, Sam McDowell and Tony Oliva -- players who helped transform the MLBPA into a bona fide collective bargaining unit in the mid-1960s -- joined with the succeeding generations of players, whose unwavering solidarity has turned it into one of the country's most powerful unions.

"We had no idea how much our union would change the game," said McDowell, a six-time All-Star who led the AL in strikeouts five times during his 15-year career.

Hall of Famer Dave Winfield hosted the exclusive rooftop event where Clark, the first player to be elected to the role of executive director, led a brief ceremony to honor key figures in the union's history. The players and guests also viewed a video that celebrated the union's history and finished with current players saying "thank you" to the generations of players who built their union.

Judy Pace Flood accepted honors on behalf of her late husband Curt Flood, who sacrificed his career when he challenged baseball's reserve system in court. Diane Margolin represented her husband, Michael Weiner, who was the MLBPA's executive director from 2009 until he passed away at age 51 in November 2013.

Special honorees in attendance were former executive director Donald Fehr, who joined the MLBPA as general counsel in 1977 and served as executive director from 1983 through 2009, as well as the union's first two general counsels, Richard Moss (1966-1977) and Gene Orza, the union's longest-serving executive before he retired in March 2011.

McDowell was equally as proud of his service to his fellow players as a top union representative during the Players Association's formative years as he was of his playing career in the '60s and '70s. A 6-foot-5 left-hander, he was known by the nickname "Sudden Sam" because of his blazing fastball.

Now 73, McDowell shared stories of his stalwart support and role in making Marvin Miller the union's first full-time executive director.

"I was probably the player who knew the most about Marvin," McDowell said. "I grew up in Pittsburgh, and my dad worked for Homestead Steel, so I had met Marvin as a kid when my dad took me to the union hall.

"The clubs were warning players that Marvin was a communist, but I knew he was just the man we needed."

MLBPA tips its cap to the presenting sponsors of its 20016 All-Star Player party, The Show 16 and Majestic. We would also like to thank Lexdray, Dream Hotels, Trigger Point, Incipio, Chassis Powder, Colorscience, Cosmedicine, Foreo, Jack Black, Jason Markk, Klean Athlete, Marchon, Monster and Wen for their support.