Curt Flood case decided

On June 19, 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court rules against Curt Flood in Flood v. Kuhn, denying Flood free agency as a baseball player. Flood was trying to break the reserve clause that had tied baseball players to one franchise since the establishment of professional baseball.

Curt Flood was traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies following the 1969 season. The Cardinals were among the premiere franchises in baseball, and they had won the World Series in 1964 and 1967 with Flood patrolling centerfield. A career .293 hitter, Flood hit .300 six times in his 10 seasons with the Cardinals (1959-1969), and won a Gold Glove Award for fielding seven consecutive years (1963-1969). He was a star player, and he was loath to leave St. Louis for Philadelphia to play for a second-rate team with a reputation for racism among the home fans.

Flood consulted Marvin Miller, executive director of the Player’s Union and a savvy negotiator and labor expert who had already successfully introduced collective bargaining to the major leagues. Miller was convinced that Flood would lose his battle in court in addition to his baseball career. Still, Flood decided to move forward, and in a December 1969 letter to baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, he stated his desire to become a free agent, which would give him the power to decide for which team he would play. Kuhn ignored the letter.

Flood v. Kuhn was argued in May and June 1970 in the southern district of New York. Flood was represented by Arthur Goldberg, a legendary labor lawyer who later became a U.S. Supreme Court justice, but a heavyweight attorney was not enough. After losing in U.S. District Court and then the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, the case was argued in front of the Supreme Court beginning in March 1972. The opinion, delivered by Justice Harry Blackmun, affirmed the 1922 Federal Baseball Club v. National League opinion of Oliver Wendell Holmes that baseball is a sport and not a business, and therefore exempt from anti-trust law. The blistering dissent by Justices Thurgood Marshall, William Brennan and William O. Douglas maintained that the ruling was incorrect because baseball was and is a business, and a big business, packaged with liquor sales, broadcasting and many other industries.

As Miller predicted, Curt Flood never played baseball again. Three years later, in 1975, an independent arbitrator ruled in a similar case brought by Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally that the men were free of their contractual obligations and could file for free agency. Today, free agency is as much a part of baseball as Cracker Jack and hot dogs.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!


CSS Alabama sinks off coast of France

Off the coast of Cherbourg, France, the Confederate raider CSS Alabama loses a ship-to-ship duel with the USS Kearsarge and sinks to the floor of the Atlantic, ending an illustrious career that saw some 68 Union merchant vessels destroyed or captured by the Confederate raider. At more

Emperor of Mexico executed

Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, installed as emperor of Mexico by French Emperor Napoleon III in 1864, is executed on the orders of Benito Juarez, the president of the Mexican Republic. In 1861, the liberal Mexican Benito Juarez became president of a country in financial more

Rosenbergs executed

On this day in 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted of conspiring to pass U.S. atomic secrets to the Soviets, are executed at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York. Both refused to admit any wrongdoing and proclaimed their innocence right up to the time of their more

Ky becomes premier of South Vietnam

Air Vice-Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky assumes the premiership of the ninth government to be installed within the last 20 months in the country. The Armed Forces Council had chosen Ky as premier on June 11, and Gen. Nguyen Van Thieu was chosen for the relatively powerless position of more

Taft marries Helen Herron

Future President William Howard Taft marries Helen “Nellie” Herron in Cincinnati, Ohio, on this day in 1886. According to biographers at the National First Ladies Library, Nellie was strong-willed, bright and ambitious but hid deep-seated insecurities about her looks and worried more

Montana flood causes train wreck

On this day in 1938, a flood in Montana kills 46 people and seriously injures more than 60 when it washes out train tracks. Custer Creek is a small winding river that runs through 25 miles of the Great Plains on its way to the Yellowstone River. Minor streams like Custer more

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Execution

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, a married couple convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage in 1951, were put to death in the electric chair on June 19, 1953. Their dual execution marked the dramatic finale of the most controversial espionage case of the Cold War. Julius was more

USS Kearsarge sinks CSS Alabama

The most successful and feared Confederate commerce raider of the war, the CSS Alabama, sinks after a spectacular battle off the coast of France with the USS Kearsarge. Built in an English shipyard and sold to the Confederates in 1861, the Alabama was a state-of-the-art ship—220 more