Curt Flood was on his way to a potential Hall of Fame career, but he would be remembered for what he did off the field which a cost him his career. Born in Houston, Texas on January 18th, 1938 Flood was later raised in Oakland California where he played at the same high school as Hall of Famer Frank Robinson and Vada Pinson which all three of them sign professional contracts with the Cincinnati Reds. Flood signed with the Cincinnati Reds in 1956 and played a handful of games with the team but was to St. Louis Cardinals in December of 1957. During his 12 seasons with Cardinals, Flood started more games (1738) accumulated more than 7 Gold Gloves and was a member of three World Series appearances with team winning two of them in 1964 and 1967.
After the 1969 The Cardinals traded Curt Flood along with Tim McCarver, Byron Browne and Joe Hoerner to the Philadelphia Phillies. Flood complained when Cardinals president Gussie Busch, and CEO of team owner Anheuser-Busch, offered him $5,000, far short of the $90,000 salary which he felt he deserved after having one of his best seasons of his career. Flood refused to report to The Phillies Spring Training Camp citing the team’s poor record and their fans who had reputation of chanting racial epithets. Flood sue Major League Baseball for violations of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. In a letter the Commissioner Bowie Kuhn Flood said’
“After twelve 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. …I believe I have the right to consider offers from other clubs before making any decisions. I, therefore, request that you make known to all of Major League clubs my feelings in this matter and advise them of my availability for the 1970 season.”
Flood’s lawsuit was defeated by the Supreme Court when the 9 judges ruled that the reserve clause was exempt from Anti-Trust Law but, it would pave the way towards free agency throughout all of the major sports from Major League Baseball, The NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Soccer. Sadly like some of the great sports figures like Muhammad Ali who was stripped of his Heavyweight Boxing title for refusing to be drafted in the Vietnam War or when Tommie Smith and John Carlos were kicked out of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City for raising the black power solute after winning there medals; Curt Flood was blackballed for refusing to play for another team without his consent to choose which team he wanted to play for, and he would never play baseball again. His contribution on the field made him one of the greatest players to play for the St. Louis Cardinals but his fight against non-competes in baseball helped build union’s collective power for athletes to the point that just before his untimely death in 1997 Congress passed The Curt Flood Act and was signed by President Bill Clinton 1998. Hopefully Flood will be inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Great article, but you forgot to mention that he caught on with the Washington Senators (now the Texas Rangers) in 1971. He played 13 games and hit .200 before calling it quits for good.