“I never before saw such a win-win situation in my life, where everybody involved in Major League Baseball, both sides of the equation, still continue to set records in terms of revenue and profits and salaries and benefits,” Miller said. He called it “an amazing story.”
Miller, who retired in 1982, led the first walkout in the game’s history 10 years earlier, a fight over pension benefits. On April 5, 1972, signs posted at major league parks simply said: “No Game Today.” The strike, which lasted 13 days, was followed by a walkout during spring training in 1976 and a midseason job action that darkened the stadiums for seven weeks in 1981.
Miller led players through three strikes and two lockouts. Baseball has had eight work stoppages in all.
Slightly built and silver-haired with a thick, dark mustache, Miller operated with an eloquence and a soft-spoken manner that belied his toughness. He clashed repeatedly with Commissioner Bowie Kuhn.
Before Miller took over the union, some players actually opposed his appointment as successor to Milwaukee Judge Robert Cannon, who had counseled them on a part-time but unpaid basis.
“Some of the player representatives were leery about picking a union man,” Hall of Fame pitcher and former U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning said in 1974. “But he was very articulate ... not the cigar-chewing type some of the guys expected.”
Miller recalled that owners “passed the word that if I were selected, goon squads would take over the game. They suggested racketeers and gangsters would swallow baseball. The players expected a ‘dese, dem and dose’ guy. The best thing I had going for me was owner propaganda.”
He was elected by the players by a vote of 489-136. Baseball had entered a new era, one in which its owners would have to bargain with a union professional.