The Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) has announced a new award to honor baseball labor luminary Curt Flood. The award, which will be part of the annual Players' Choice awards, will be given, in the words of a statement released by the MLBPAA, "a former player, living or deceased, who in the image of Flood demonstrated a selfless, longtime devotion to the Players Association and advancement of Players' rights."
The announcement marks the 50th anniversary of Flood's legal challenge of the reserve clause, which once upon a time bound a player to one team until the team decided to release or trade that player. While Flood's bid to weaken the clause failed after reaching the Supreme Court in 1972, it paved the way for a later successful challenge, which in the mid-1970s led to advent of free agency. Without Flood's sacrifices, that hard-won player freedom may not have come to pass for another generation.
Flood -- a three-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove center fielder, and core member of the great Cardinals teams of the 1960s -- mounted his pioneering challenge after an unwelcome trade to the Phillies in 1969. His activism and the resulting strains from it cost him multiple seasons in the majors.
"Each year this award will honor one of the many players in our union's history who committed himself to our player fraternity and demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice individually for the betterment of the whole," executive director Tony Clark said in the MLBPAA statement. "Curt was one of the most influential athletes of the 20th century. His principled stand helped fundamentally change the way business is done in all professional team sports -- not just baseball."
"Curt's challenge of the reserve clause is truly an example of his courage, commitment to principles and justice," Flood's widow Judy Pace Flood also said in the statement. "He knew his actions could cost him his career, yet he took a stance for what he believed was right. Thank you to the MLBPA for continuing to honor and preserve the legacy of my late husband with this award so that his courage and sacrifice will never be forgotten."