Skip To Content

June 28, 2021

Trone Leads Bipartisan, Bicameral Call for Civil Rights Icon Curt Flood’s Induction into Baseball Hall of Fame after COVID Postponed Last Year’s Vote

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 28, 2021

Contact: Hannah Muldavin, Hannah.Muldavin@mail.house.gov

Trone Leads Bipartisan, Bicameral Call for Civil Rights Icon Curt Flood’s Induction into Baseball Hall of Fame after COVID Postponed Last Year’s Vote

In 2020, Rep. Trone and Members of Congress honor the 50th anniversary of Flood’s pioneering efforts for workers’ rights in professional sports

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Representative David Trone (D-MD), alongside U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Reps. Cori Bush (D-MO), Ann Wagner (R-MO), and Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), sent a letter to the Chair of the Board of the National Baseball Hall of Fame urging the induction of All-Star baseball player Curt Flood into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Flood is well known for transforming professional sports when he challenged Major League Baseball’s (MLB) reserve system and helped create free agency within the MLB and other major sports leagues. 

“Curt Flood was a trailblazer in the world of professional sports and workers’ rights,” said Rep. David Trone (D-MD), who organized the effort to induct Flood into the Hall of Fame. “Flood stood up for what he believed in even though he knew it would mean the end of his career. If it wasn’t for Flood, professional athletes wouldn’t have free agency to own their own career. Let’s finally recognize Flood for both his incredible talent as a three-time all-star and his courageous and selfless efforts.”

“I’m proud to stand with my colleagues and baseball fans nationwide in calling for Curt Flood’s induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame,” said Sen. Blunt. “He had an incredibly successful career on the field, leading the Cardinals to two World Series championships and earning seven consecutive Gold Gloves. Guided by his principles, he made the brave decision to challenge the league’s reserve clause, knowing full well that it could jeopardize his career. If Curt Flood’s letter is in the Hall of Fame, Curt Flood should be there too.”

“Curt Flood had a remarkable career on and off the field. He risked everything to ensure players had a say in their careers by challenging the reserve clause. His life should be honored in the halls of Cooperstown so baseball fans, young and old, can learn about the impact he had on the game,” said Sen. Durbin.

“Today, St. Louis and I honor the legacy of Missouri’s own Curt Flood by recognizing his accomplishments and sacrifices in his relentless struggle to assert his rights against the MLB reserve clause,” said Rep. Cori Bush. “I am proud to join my colleagues in urging Mr. Flood be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame to preserve his historic legacy and contributions.”

“Cardinals baseball is more than just a pastime for St. Louisans. Our team and its players have a profound impact on our community; however, perhaps no other Cardinal has made a larger impact on Major League Baseball than Curt Flood. Not only did he amaze fans with his talents on the field, Curt Flood also changed the way players are treated off the field. I am honored to join my colleagues in both the House and Senate to urge the Golden Era Committee to nominate and induct Curt Flood into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame,” said Rep. Wagner.

“While Curt Flood was a phenomenal ballplayer, his most profound impact came off the field when he demanded major leaguers be afforded the fundamental right to have a say in where one lives and labors,” said Rep. Cleaver. “His principled stand changed the game of baseball for the benefit of everyone playing today, and his legacy is one that few in Cooperstown could match. I’m proud to join my colleagues in a bipartisan call for Curt Flood to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame—an honor of which he is more than deserving.”

Last year, a bipartisan and bicameral coalition of 102 Members of Congress led by Trone celebrated the 50th anniversary of Flood’s accomplishments and sent a letter to the National Baseball Hall of Fame urging the induction of Curt Flood. Due to the pandemic, the Hall of Fame had to postpone their meeting last year, which will now take place this year. 

The 2020 effort was endorsed by the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA), and the Major League Soccer Players Association (MLSPA). It was also endorsed by UNITE HERE, a labor union that represents 300,000 working people across Canada and the United States in the hotel, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, distribution, laundry, transportation, and airport industries. 

The group held a press conference including remarks with Curt Flood’s widow, Judy Pace Flood, which you can watch here.

Click here to view a copy of the letter. You can also find the text of the letter below.

June 28, 2021

Jane Forbes Clark

Chair of the Board

Major League Baseball Hall of Fame

25 Main Street

Cooperstown, NY 13326

Dear Chairman Clark:

Last year, over 100 Members of Congress wrote to you to express their strong support for Curt Flood’s nomination and induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. We understand that as a result of uncertainties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Board of Directors unanimously voted to postpone the work of the Golden Days Era Committee until 2021. Today, we again write to encourage the Historical Overview Committee to add Curt Flood’s name to the ballot of candidates that will be considered by the Golden Days Era Committee for admission to the Hall of Fame when the Committee reconvenes this December. We strongly believe that Curt Flood has earned his place in the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

In your response to our letter dated February 27, 2020, former Hall of Fame President Tim Mead noted that it is extremely difficult to gain admission to the Hall of Fame; only 1% of all players have earned this honor. We believe that Mr. Flood’s legacy is more profound than many of his colleagues who are already enshrined at Cooperstown; he sacrificed his own career so that future players would be afforded more rights and better compensation during the course of their careers. 

Mr. Flood was a two-time World Series Champion, three-time All Star, and seven-time consecutive Golden Glove Award winner, but arguably his greatest contribution to professional baseball happened off the field. Mr. Flood’s courageous actions made Major League Baseball (MLB) what it is today by paving the way for free agency. There would be no more fitting time to enshrine Mr. Flood into the Hall of Fame than during the 51st anniversary of his courageous court challenge to the reserve system, which helped transform professional sports.

After playing 12 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals as a standout center fielder, Flood was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1969, without any consultation from Cardinals management. Mr. Flood refused to be traded, becoming the first player in MLB history to reject a trade. At the time, players were still bound to a team for life by the so-called “reserve clause.” Simply put, a player was a team’s property. Mr. Flood demanded Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn declare him a free agent in a letter dated Christmas Eve 1969. He wrote: “After twelve years in the major leagues, I do not feel I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes. I believe that any system which produces that result violates my basic rights as a citizen and is inconsistent with the laws of the United States and of the several States.”

Commissioner Kuhn denied Mr. Flood’s request, so he filed a lawsuit against the MLB. The case (Flood v. Kuhn) reached the Supreme Court in 1972. In a 5-3 ruling, the Court sided with the MLB and against Mr. Flood, affirming the legality of the “reserve clause,” and professional baseball’s immunity from antitrust laws. Mr. Flood paid a huge price both professionally and personally for this decision and was effectively black balled from the MLB after seven consecutive Golden Glove seasons. 

In 1998, Congress would unanimously pass the Curt Flood Act, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The law overrode parts of the 1922 Supreme Court ruling that exempted baseball from antitrust laws that applied to all other sports, creating a far more just system for subsequent MLB athletes. 

Thanks to Mr. Flood’s courageous act to not accept a trade, and to the efforts of Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Marvin Miller, the reserve clause was eventually terminated in December 1975. While both Mr. Flood and Mr. Miller are directly responsible for the current free agency system that MLB players enjoy today, Mr. Miller was inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame for his work on behalf of players and the League, yet Mr. Flood still lacks the same recognition. 

The effects of Mr. Flood’s actions are still felt today. In December of 2019, MLB superstar Gerrit Cole praised Mr. Flood during a press conference in which Cole celebrated his new $324 million dollar contract with the Yankees: “I want everybody to know, because challenging the reserve clause was one of the first stepping stones to ultimately the system we have today, which I believe brings out the most competitive, you know, genuine competitiveness, that we have in baseball.” 

The past year has shown us the importance of acknowledging and celebrating the achievements of people of color, especially when their contributions to society have been largely overlooked. While we appreciate Mr. Flood’s prominence in the Hall of Fame’s museum and extensive archives, we believe that his actions merit a higher form of recognition. Mr. Flood exemplifies the American ideal: Standing up for what is right, regardless of the cost to oneself. 

This is why we again strongly urge the Historical Overview Committee and Golden Days Era Committee to recognize Curt Flood’s unprecedented courage and lasting effect on professional baseball by deservedly inducting him into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Mr. Flood’s candidacy is supported by prominent current and former MLB players, seasoned sports writers, and baseball fans around the country. We respectfully request you give him the strongest possible consideration. 

Cc:        Members of the Historical Overview Committee

              Members of the Golden Days Era Committee

Sincerely, 

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND

After playing 12 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals as a standout center fielder, Flood was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1969. Mr. Flood refused to be traded, becoming the first player in MLB history to reject a trade. At the time, players were still bound to a team for life by the so-called “reserve clause.” Simply put, a player was a team’s property. Mr. Flood demanded the Baseball Commissioner declare him a free agent on Christmas Eve 1969. Commissioner Kuhn denied Mr. Flood’s request, so he filed a lawsuit against the MLB. The case (Flood v. Kuhn) reached the Supreme Court in 1972. In a 5-3 ruling, the Court sided with the MLB and against Mr. Flood.

Thanks to Mr. Flood’s courageous act to not accept a trade and to the efforts of Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Marvin Miller, the reserve clause eventually ended in December 1975. Mr. Flood and Mr. Miller are directly responsible for the current free agency system that MLB players enjoy today. While Mr. Miller was deservingly elected to the Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2020 for his work on behalf of players and the League recently, Mr. Flood still lacks the same recognition. 

This December, the Golden Era Committee will meet to consider new inductees for the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

###