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Flood of free agency

Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Flood fought player reserve clause
By Nick Acocella
Special to

Signature Game
Jan. 16, 1970 - Traded against his will in October, Flood filed suit in Federal Court in New York to knock out the player reserve clause in Major League Baseball. In charging baseball with violation of the antitrust laws, Flood asked the court to award him triple damages on his $1-million suit.

His suit named as defendants Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, the presidents of the National and American Leagues, and all 24 teams. The reserve clause restricted a player to one team indefinitely.

Flood's lawyer, former Supreme Court Justice and U.N. Ambassador Arthur Goldberg, charged that the system "subjects all players to peonage and involuntary servitude in violation of the 13th Amendment."

Flood had played the last 12 years with the St. Louis Cardinals before he was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Flood will lose his battle, but the players will win the war. His action will lead to the end of the reserve clause and the birth of free agency.

Odds 'n' Ends

  • George Powles, Flood's coach at McClymonds High School, achieved a level of fame for helping develop several major leaguers. Among them were Frank Robinson and Vada Pinson, who were Flood's teammates before he transferred to Oakland Technical High School.

  • Flood hit .429 as a sophomore in 1953 at McClymonds, five points higher than Robinson, a senior.

  • Another lasting influence on Flood's life was Jim Chambers, an art teacher at Herbert Hoover Junior High. Chambers' sister Marian and her husband, Johnny Jorgensen, became Flood's closest friends.

  • Flood's experiences as a minor leaguer in North Carolina - hostility from fans as well as segregated housing and restaurants - were his first with overt racism. Growing up in Oakland, he rarely encountered whites.

  • A child of the 1960s, Flood disdained black racism almost as much as he did white racism.

  • Flood credited first baseman George Crowe for getting him out a terrible slump in 1959 by helping him eliminate a hitch in his swing.

  • Flood's harshest words were for aggressive managers who keep their players on edge. His particular nemesis was Solly Hemus, who managed the Cardinals in 1959, 1960 and half of 1961.

  • For the better part of the 1960s, Flood hit behind Lou Brock, who broke Ty Cobb's record for most career steals.

  • Flood had eight consecutive hits, including four against Sandy Koufax, in a doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Aug. 16, 1964.

  • From 1965-69, Flood and Tim McCarver were co-captains of the Cardinals. The shared honor was indicative of the racial harmony that prevailed on the team.

  • Flood was selected to three National League All-Star teams (1964, 1966 and 1968).

  • A photo of one of Flood's more spectacular catches appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1968. The magazine called him "the best centerfielder in baseball."

  • When Flood refused to report to the Phillies, the Cardinals sent first baseman Willie Montanez and minor leaguer Bob Browning to complete the trade on April 8, 1970.

  • Flood was traded from the Phillies to the Senators on Nov. 3, 1970 for Greg Goosen, Jeff Terpko and Gene Martin.

  • Even though he is remembered more for his speed than his power, Flood cracked double figures in home runs four times and in stolen bases only three times.

  • Flood once held major league records for both consecutive games without an error (226) and consecutive chances without an error (396).

  • Flood hit only .221 in 21 World Series games.

  • Flood and his first wife, Beverly, divorced in 1966. They had five children.

  • In 1986, he married actress Judy Pace, a long-time friend whom he dated from 1966 to 1970 before he left the country.

  • One of Flood's early portraits, of Martin Luther King, hung in Coretta Scott King's home. His portrait of Augie Busch Jr. hung in the saloon on the Cardinals owner's yacht.

  • On Dec. 6, 1994, before speaking at a meeting of the executive committee of the Major League Baseball Players Association in Atlanta, the players gave him a standing ovation.

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