RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
In a few days, baseball's Hall of Fame will name its newest inductees. Sports commentator Frank Deford says one old-timer is long overdue for recognition.
FRANK DEFORD: As a general rule, I try to take a wide berth of Hall of Fame arguments, especially in baseball, where what is always called The Shrine matters more passionately to the cognoscenti. The fans who champion some old hero are ardent and unrelenting in their support of their guy.
I've even had admirers of Pete Browning, the so-called Old Gladiator, whose Major League career ended in 1894, hound me. And I don't even have a vote.
But I must suspend that policy today, to plead with the 16 former players and officials and journalists who are on the special old-timers committee that is considering the candidacy of Marvin Miller, the original Players' Association chief.
Surely, there must be, amongst the committee, the necessary dozen men, tried and true, who can vote this week to escort Miller out of the vestibule and into the hallowed rooms where the plaques of the other immortals stare out from the walls. It is a travesty that Miller has already been denied admission in four previous elections.
We're not talking here about some fringe candidate, the Old Gladiator or Tommy John or Billy Martin. Miller is arguably the most significant figure in 20th century baseball, certainly no less important to the National Pastime than was Jackie Robinson or Branch Rickey or Babe Ruth.
For that matter, because Miller outsmarted the entire establishment, giving to baseball players free agency, abolishing the illegal reserve clause - a contract provision which bound them to the same team in perpetuity. He not only turned the business of baseball on its ear, but effectively overhauled all professional sport in the United States. Who has done more? Who?
It is all the more insulting that Bowie Kuhn, the commissioner whom Miller undressed at every turn, has already been safely domiciled for all eternity in Cooperstown.
This is like voting Goliath into the Biblical Hall of Fame and keeping out David. This is like putting Jefferson Davis in the Presidents Hall of Fame and voting down Abe Lincoln four times.
Marvin Miller is a widower, 93 years old. To deny him election is implausible. Not to elect him while yet he lives is cruel. To twist the old Groucho Marx line: For those already in the Hall of Fame, I would not want to be in any shrine that wouldn't let Marvin Miller in.
MONTAGNE: Frank Deford joins us each Wednesday from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut.
It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And I'm Steve Inskeep.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.