Stepping Up

This article is more than 14 years old.

Curt Flood was a terrific centerfielder and a consistent hitter for the St. Louis Cardinals. He'd probably have played into the early 70's if he'd joined the Philadelphia Phillies when he was told to do so.

Instead, when he was traded after the 1969 season, Flood wrote the commissioner and told him he didn't think his employer had any right to treat him like property, trading or selling him to another team without his consent.

"Stepping Up" explores the factors that led Curt Flood to challenge baseball's reserve clause and the result of his challenge. By most measures, it failed. Though his complaint reached the Supreme Court, that august body declined to reverse the preposterous decision by Oliver Wendell Holmes that had granted the baseball business exemption from the anti-trust laws. Flood tried a comeback with the Washington Senators, but the seasons he'd missed had diminished his skills and his enthusiasm for the baseball. He quit after a handful of games.

Alex Belth's book celebrates Curt Flood's courage and determination while acknowledging his vulnerability. A gifted artist as well as an excellent ballplayer, Flood also had a self-destructive side, and bitterness over the failure of his challenge to baseball may have been in part responsible for his premature death at 59.

In 1975, several years after the Supreme Court rejected the reasoning of Curt Flood and Players' Association Director Marvin Miller, arbitrator Peter Seitz ushered in the era of free agency. There was, as Alex Belth points out, no direct connection between the two events, but that should not diminish appreciation for Flood's sacrifice.

This program aired on April 27, 2006. The audio for this program is not available.