Here’s a few comments on the two executives listed on the newest Veteran’s Committee Ballot.
Marvin Miller is the most important non-player in baseball since Kennesaw Mountain Landis, Frank Jobe not withstanding (For those who don’t know, Jobe is the Tommy John Surgery doctor and someone I’d support for the Hall of Fame.). As executive director of the Player’s Association he changed the economics of the game. Players got the freedom to change teams, to make a lot of money, and, as a fringe benefit of more money, a chance to train fulltime instead of work at a “real” job. He was also, apparently, an absolute jerk of a human being. Even the players didn’t particularly like him. But this isn’t a contest for “Miss (or Mr.) Congeniality”, it’s a vote for the Hall of Fame. I think Miller absolutely belongs. Now that he’s dead and won’t get to make a speech, maybe they’ll finally let him in.
George Steinbrenner bought the New York Yankees in 1973 and owned them until his death in 2010. No one would ever accuse him of being a “hands off” owner. Steinbrenner took personal charge of returning the team to its 1920s-early 1960s glory. He was one of the first owners to understand and use the new economic program Miller had instituted with his successful challenge of the reserve clause. Steinbrenner, with a huge budget, brought in free agent after free agent. Some of them worked, some didn’t. but he continued putting pieces together until his team picked up pennants from 1976 through 1978, winning the World Series in 1977 and 1978, then picking up a division championship in 1980 and a pennant in 1981. Between 1990 and 1993 Steinbrenner was banned from running the Yanks (but not stripped of his ownership) for paying gamblers to find out anything unflattering they could about one of his players (Dave Winfield). Apparently it was using gamblers that got Steinbrenner in trouble. In 1993 he was reinstated for day-to-day running of the Yankees. His teams won further championships in 1996, 1998-2000, and 2009. There were also pennants in 2001 and 2003.
There is no question that Steinbrenner was one of the more influential men in baseball for 30 years, but I don’t think the Hall should install more than one executive a year and this year Miller is much more significant. I know the one a year criteria is arbitrary, but it’s the way I look at the issue. This is a Hall that should be dominated by players. I’m all for executives, managers, umpires, and other contributors getting elected, but I don’t want their numbers to overwhelm the players. This particular ballot is heavy with both managers and executives and they may put in up to four or five non-players and no players (I have no idea what will actually happen). So for me Miller is in and Steinbrenner isn’t for this year.