On March 5, 1966, Marvin Miller, the 48-year-old assistant to the president of the United Steelworkers of America, is elected the first full-time executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association. Miller, whose role with the United Steelworkers of America included serving as lead negotiator, takes over at a time when the average yearly MLB player's salary is only $19,000 and the minimum salary is under $10,000. By the time Miller, a fierce advocate for MLB players, retires in 1982, the average salary for a player is $241,497.
Looking back on the early days of his leadership of the MLBPA, Miller said the biggest problem was the low self-esteem of the players. "They had been so beaten down [by management] that they really didn’t understand their value in the game,” he said.
With the MLBPA, Miller also helped players win the right to seek arbitration to resolve contract disputes and advised Curt Flood when he sued the MLB over the reserve clause, which kept a player bound to his team. The reserve clause was struck down in 1975, leading to free agency for players. Miller described Flood as “a union leader’s dream” for pursuing the lawsuit despite knowing that it would effectively end his career, but would benefit future players.
Miller was a Brooklyn native with an economics degree from New York University. He worked with the National War Labor Board, then worked for the International Association of Machinists, the United Auto Workers and finally, the United Steelworkers of America.
Miller, who died in 2012, was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame posthumously in 2019. “He is, for lack of a better term, the Godfather of it all,” MLBPA representative Andrew Miller, a St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, told the Associated Press about Miller's advocacy for players.
By 2017, five years after Miller's death, the average player salary was nearly $4.1 million, according to the Associated Press.