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Blunt Calls for Former St. Louis Cardinal & MLB All-Star Curt Flood’s Induction into National Baseball Hall of Fame

Blunt: “If there's a copy of Curt Flood's letter in the Hall of Fame, Curt Flood should be in the Hall of Fame”

February 27, 2020

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) spoke on the Senate floor to call for former St. Louis Cardinal and All-Star baseball player Curt Flood’s induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

After playing 12 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals as a standout center fielder, Flood was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1969. On Christmas Eve of that year, Flood sent a letter to then-Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Bowie Kuhn requesting the right to become a free agent. At the time, players were still bound to a team for life by the so-called “reserve clause.” Commissioner Kuhn denied Flood’s request, prompting him to file a lawsuit against the MLB in 1970. The case, Flood v. Kuhn, reached the Supreme Court in 1972. In a 5-3 ruling, the Court sided with the MLB and against Flood.

Thanks to Flood’s courageous actions and to the efforts of Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Marvin Miller, the reserve clause eventually ended in December 1975. Flood and Miller are directly responsible for the current free agency system that MLB players enjoy today. While Miller was inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame for his work on behalf of players and the League recently, Flood has not received the same recognition.

At a press conference following his remarks, Blunt joined U.S. Representatives David Trone (Md.), Wm. Lacy Clay (Mo.) and Ann Wagner (Mo.) in announcing that they are leading a letter to the Chair of the Board of the National Baseball Hall of Fame urging the induction of Curt Flood. The letter has been signed by more than 100 Members of Congress.

Following are Excerpts of Blunt’s Remarks:

"Another part of our history that very closely relates to this, Madam President, going to be something that I'll be part of this afternoon. Later, we over on the House side, where Congressman David Trone of Maryland and I along with Senator Durbin and Congressman Clay from St. Louis and Congresswoman Wagner from St. Louis, we're sending a letter to the Baseball Hall of Fame telling the Baseball Hall of Fame that they need to include Curt Flood in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

"Now Curt Flood was a great player and just on his playing skills alone should be part of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He played almost his entire career with the Cardinals, [12] consecutive years that included two World Series pennants in 1964 and 1967. He won seven Golden Gloves in that [12] years, designated the best center fielder in the National League.

"I remember that team well, we were Cardinal fans at my house and in the late 50s, early 60s, you didn't have very many sports on TV, but we listened to every Cardinal game we could hear on the radio. I remember, my mom and dad were dairy farmers, I remember being out hauling hay at night and whoever was driving the truck should have been almost deaf because the radio, if there was a Cardinals game going on, would be as loud as it could possibly be, so those of us out tossing the bales on the hay truck could hear the Cardinals game.

"I also remember, and I checked myself yesterday to be sure I was accurate, but on that Curt Flood team, that 1964 team, it was Bill White at first base, Julian Javier at second base, Dick Groat shortstop, Ken Boyer at third base, Tim McCarver catching most of the time, and always if Bob Gibson was pitching, and in the outfield was the great Lou Brock, Curt Flood in center field, and Mike Shannon in right field. Mike Shannon, by the way, still announces on the radio, and occasionally on television, the Cardinals games. But it was a great team and Curt Flood was an important part of that team, and frankly he should be in the Hall of Fame just because of that. Two World Series, the best center fielder in baseball, at least in the National League, seven years straight.

"But in late 1969, the Cardinals decided they were going to trade Curt Flood to the Phillies. Now, I don't think Curt Flood had anything necessarily against the Phillies, but he didn't want to be traded against his will. And so he wrote a letter to the commissioner of baseball. And in that letter, he said ‘after 12 years in the Major Leagues, I do not feel that I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes.’ That began the challenge to the reserve clause in baseball and may be particularly significant here in Black History Month that a African-American player was the one that challenged the reserve clause.

"But the reserve clause in baseball, you would play for your team's owner as long as you wanted to play unless your team's owner decided you would play for someone else. And then you'd play for that person as long as they wanted you to play unless you decided you didn't want to play baseball anymore. So it was Curt Flood who challenged that. He lost a Supreme Court case, a 5-4 loss in the Supreme Court. But it didn't take too many years before not only was the reserve clause reversed, but Curt Flood was recognized in federal legislation.

"This single page letter filed as part of the 1970 case, there's a copy of that letter at the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown. If there's a copy of Curt Flood's letter in the Hall of Fame, Curt Flood should be in the Hall of Fame. And I hope those looking back at what's called the golden years of baseball that look at players who didn't get into the Hall of Fame will take our advice, look at Curt Flood, look at the difference he has made for players playing the game today and put him in the Hall of Fame."

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