NASHVILLE, Tenn. - On a day when the Veterans Committee elected new members to the Hall of Fame for the first time since 2001, much of the attention went to a nominee who came up short: Marvin Miller, the strong-willed, sharp-tongued labor leader who helped turn the Major League Baseball Players Association into one of the most powerful unions in the world.
Ironically, one of the five managers or executives who will be enshrined at Cooperstown on July 27 is former commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who was Miller's adversary in some epic labor battles . . . and, many would say, was almost always outflanked by Miller.
Also elected yesterday under revamped voting procedures were pioneering former Pirates owner Barney Dreyfus, considered the father of the modern World Series; legendary Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley, who opened up the sport by moving his team from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, and managers Dick Williams and Billy Southworth.
Former Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog and longtime umpire Doug Harvey each missed by a single vote.
Veterans committee elections in 2003 and '07 did not produce an electee. So this year, there was one list of nominees in the managers and umpires category and another slate for executives and pioneers.
Miller was considered in the latter category. A panel of 12 consisting of seven executives, two Hall of Fame players and three longtime members of the Baseball Writers Association of America were allowed to vote for up to four candidates. A nominee had to be named on at least nine ballots for enshrinement. Miller received just three votes.
"This was done with precision. If you a set goal in mind, and I think they did, it's not very hard," Miller told the Associated Press. "Nothing has dimmed with age. No matter how various people involved in the Hall try to put a different gloss on it, it was done primarily to have somebody elected and secondarily to have particular people elected. I don't think this election was about me."
Miller believes, however, that the new format was designed to elect Kuhn and other management favorites.
"I think it was rigged, but not to keep me out. It was rigged to bring some these of [people] in. It's not a pretty picture," he said. "It's demeaning, the whole thing, and I don't mean just to me. It's demeaning to the Hall and demeaning to the people in it."
In the last vote 2 years ago, Miller received 63 percent of the votes, this time he got 25 percent. Kuhn received 17 percent of the votes in 2007, but got 83 percent this time.
"The failure to elect Marvin Miller is an unfortunate and regrettable decision. Without question, the Hall of Fame is poorer for it," current players union executive director Don Fehr said in a statement.
Said commissioner Bud Selig in a statement: "I was surprised that Marvin Miller did not receive the required support given his important impact on the game."
It's probably not surprising that Miller, who evoked strong reactions both pro and con during his career, continues to do the same today. It's unfortunate, however, that these emotions may have overshadowed the honor bestowed on those who were voted in yesterday.
O'Malley, a Penn grad, was a controversial figure in his own right after moving the beloved Dodgers to California in 1958. Now, however, he's viewed as a visionary and remembered for the influence he wielded within the game.
Kuhn was cited for his dogged pursuit of what he perceived as the best interests, although his dire warnings that free agency would ruin the game seem quaint at the time when the sport is coming off another year of record attendance with revenues that topped $6 billion.
Southworth managed for 13 years, went to the World Series four times and had the fifth-highest winning percentage of all time. Williams took three different teams to the World Series in his 21 years and ranks ninth on the all-time wins list.
The Phillies have signed 6-6 lefthander Drew Taylor, who was released by the Toronto Blue Jays. Taylor, the Big 12 pitcher of the year for Michigan in 2003, was 1-0, 4.56 in 16 games for Class A Auburn last season . . . There were two minor trades at the winter meetings yesterday. The Rays traded talented but troubled outfielder Elijah Dukes to Washington for minor league lefthander Glenn Gibson. And Arizona got minor league infielder Chris Carter from the White Sox in exchange for Carlos Quentin, the Diamondbacks No. 1 draft choice in 2003 who batted .214 in 81 big-league games last year . . . Major league baseball announced that the second annual Civil Rights Game will be played by the Mets and White Sox in Memphis, Tenn., on March 29. *