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Commentary: Curt Flood's Hall of Fame delay is a black eye for baseball

As the baseball Hall of Fame debate readies to take center stage once again, there's a player who still deserves his due. Curt Flood should be a Hall of Famer by now
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Curt Flood is shown at bat, April 9, 1965. (AP Photo)

ST. LOUIS — Baseball Hall of Fame debates are my favorite sports arguments. And since the ongoing lockout shows no signs of ending, it looks like that's the only baseball-playing-related argument we'll be having for a while.

The history of the game is so rich with talent, characters and moments that can all be compared to one another. Everyone has their own slightly different viewpoint.

However, there are some names that are no-brainers. Mariano Rivera was the first unanimous Hall of Famer. Ken Griffey Jr., Derek Jeter and Tom Seaver nearly did that, too.

There's another name that should be a Hall of Fame no-brainer, too. But just over half a century after he made one of the most historic decisions in the history of baseball, Curt Flood still can't get into Cooperstown. And that's a baseball injustice that needs to be rectified.

Yes, Flood had an above-average playing career. He was a lifetime .293 hitter who was a 3-time All-Star, 7-time Gold Glover and 2-time World Series champion with the Cardinals.

But if you're even vaguely familiar with Flood's story, you know it goes well beyond what happened on the field.

Flood would have been 84 on Jan. 18, 2022. Nearly 52 years ago, on Christmas Eve 1969, he had his historic moment. The outfielder sent a letter to Major League commissioner Bowie Kuhn, rejecting a trade from the Cardinals to the Phillies and challenging the reserve clause.

It was the letter that changed baseball forever.

"Dear Mr. Kuhn,

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 that any system which produces that result violates my basic rights as a citizen and is inconsistent with the laws of the United States and of the several States.

It is my desire to play baseball in 1970, and I am capable of playing. I have received a contract offer from the Philadelphia Club, but 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 the Major League Clubs my feelings in this matter, and advise them of my availability for the 1970 season.

Sincerely yours, Curt Flood."

He was the first man through the wall, sticking up for players' rights and leading to the birth of free agency in 1976.

But as that first man through the wall, Flood bore the brunt of the damage. He didn't get a job in 1970, and only played 13 more games in the Majors despite being just 33 years old, and coming off seven straight Gold Gloves in St. Louis.

Flood knew what might happen to him if he followed through with his cause, but he did it anyway. Flood's fight and sacrifice of his career paved the way for the contracts we see players get today.

Recently, there has been a renewed interest in getting Flood into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Politicians have spoken out in favor of Flood's inclusion, and the hashtag #FloodTheHall caught on on social media.

But 2022 is another year that will come and go without Flood in Cooperstown.

In fact, when compiling the list of "Golden Days" candidates (players whose contributions to the game were most significant from 1947-1972) to be voted on this past election cycle, Flood didn't even make the cut. Which is inexcusable.

Legendary Players' Union head Marvin Miller was posthumously inducted in 2021. Flood is just as, if not more deserving.

As one of the most historically important baseball players ever, including Flood's plaque in the literal museum celebrating the game's history should be, to borrow an outfield term, a "can of corn".

It's embarrassing that it's taken this long, and even more embarrassing that Flood didn't even get included in the discussion on the "Golden Days" committee.

In the midst of another labor debate while we bicker over disappointing ballots from writers and whether or not players who don't fit the Hall's "character clause" should be allowed in, there's Curt Flood's case, still waiting its turn.

It's a wait that will remain an injustice and embarrassment for baseball until rectified.

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