The results of two separate Veterans Committees votes were announced Monday as the first order of business at the Winter Meetings. The committee on managers and umpires elected one of each, Whitey Herzog and Doug Harvey. There can be no serious complaint with the qualifications of either man.
But the committee on executives and pioneers elected no one to the Hall of Fame. With nine of 12 votes required for induction, John Fetzer, longtime owner of the Detroit Tigers, and a widely respected figure in the game, came closest with eight votes. Miller, and the late Jacob Ruppert, former Yankee owner, who presided over the franchise's first era of greatness, were next with seven votes.
Only a brief discussion of Miller's worth is required here. His importance in completely changing the fundamental nature of baseball's labor-management equation is widely understood and appreciated; everywhere but within this Veterans Committee.
Miller turned the players' union from a mere notion into an organized labor powerhouse. Baseball players were in indentured servitude, chained to one team for life when Miller took over the union in the mid-60s. Today, the average salary of a Major League player is nickels away from $3 million per year. This union is not only the most successful union in pro sports; it is one of the most successful unions in the history of labor in North America.
Marvin Miller, as the executive director of the union, was the driving force behind changing the players' status from supplicants at the owners' feet, to a co-equal force in the labor-management process. He is as important to the history of the game as any single off-the-field individual could be.
VETERANS COMMITTEE VOTING MANAGERS/UMPIRES BALLOT
|Davey Johnson||Fewer than 3|
|Tom Kelly||Fewer than 3|
|Billy Martin||Fewer than 3|
|Gene Mauch||Fewer than 3|
|Steve O'Neill||Fewer than 3|
But, he can't get elected to the Hall of Fame. Why? As Miller himself has pointed out, some of the same people he was arguing with are now determining his Hall of Fame fate as members of the Veterans Committee. And in the vast majority of cases, Miller was, of course, winning those arguments.
Seven of the 12 members of this Veterans Committee are baseball executives or retired baseball executives. There are also two Hall of Fame players, and three veteran baseball writers. The rationale for having the majority of the committee being baseball management is that the vast majority of the candidates the committee considers for election to the Hall are, in fact, baseball executives. No one, presumably, would be more familiar with these candidates than other baseball executives.
That is sensible, but that same Committee composition does not work when the executive in question is Miller, a labor executive. Miller expressed outrage after the 2007 Veterans Committee vote, saying that the process was set up to give the impression of a democratic election, when in fact, he had no chance of being elected. He asked the Baseball Writers Association of America to stop nominating him for the Hall election, but the writers did not comply with this request, because they understood Miller's importance.
The illogical nature of the process revealed itself two years ago when Miller was not elected to the Hall, but the late Bowie Kuhn was elected. Miller's career with the players' union was built on defeating management, and the primary management figure in his era was Kuhn, as Commissioner.
Miller in his retirement has not been shy about pointing out weaknesses he perceived in Kuhn. He has also given his opinion that many of the owners were not particularly bright. These are not the sort of statements that are designed to smooth over old differences with management. But this election is not about a lack of grace in victory. It is about recognizing the accomplishments of one man on behalf of baseball labor.
It is true that Miller received seven votes this year, when two years ago he had received only three votes. But the only acceptable level of progress in this process would be the election of Marvin Miller to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The importance of his work, whether anyone liked it or not, is not in question. What is in question is whether the members of this Veterans Committee can ever put aside past disputes, defeats and bitterness and give Miller the honor that he deserves.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.