Curtis Flood’s Free Agency Scandal
The 1960’s was a pivotal decade in the history of baseball. In the middle of all of this social change was one man, St. Louis Cardinal’s centerfielder Curt Flood. Influenced by the chaos of his times, Flood started his own social movement, a single ball player’s struggle for freedom on the baseball diamond. Flood, an accomplished baseball player, had experienced twelve years in the Major Leagues, a victim of discrimination in a country that was still racist. In 1969, Flood made a historic decision that ended his baseball career at the age of 31. Against the advice of the Major League Baseball’s Players Union, Flood refused to accept his trade to the Philadelphia Phillies after the end of the 1969 season. Following Flood’s refusal to be traded was a Supreme Court case. When the case finally made its way through the courts system, Flood’s baseball career was finished, but a whole new era of baseball had started. Flood is an important figure in today’s Major League Baseball.
The story of Curt Flood is full of sacrifice and courage. It is the story of a ball player giving up the game he loved for nothing more than a principle. Flood’s main reason for rejecting being traded, was he didn’t want to be treated as property any longer (Lore 1). Wanting the freedom to choose what team he played for, Flood would not accept the concept that he had no control over his own destiny as a baseball player. “When the Cardinals traded him to Philadelphia, Flood received no warning, nor was he offered any input on where or for whom he could earn his livelihood” (Lore 1). Flood, however, stood alone in his fight. Flood surely could have used backing from his contemporaries (Sandomir 2). He was dismissed from the game and even ran out of his country. Flood moved to a place in Majorca, a Mediterranean island away from the disapproving public and the baseball establishment who criticized his actions. Flood went to battle in his Supreme Court case, ultimately losing his fight with baseball in 1972, but paved the way for future ball players to enjoy new freedoms in the sport.
Born in Houston, Texas, to a poor hardworking family on January 18, 1938, he was the youngest of six children. He began playing on baseball fields in Oakland, California. Showing talent in his childhood, Flood spent his youth competing with his peers on the base paths and displaying a strong swing that led him to a career in the Major Leagues. Flood’s road to professional baseball was not without trials. He became used to overcoming adversity from the very beginnings of his career. Being smaller than the average major league player, Flood battled with his size in an attempt to prove himself on the baseball field. He managed to snag seven Gold Glove awards, which are given to the league’s best fielder at each position (Flood v. Kuhn 2). He came to be defined as one of his generation’s best centerfielders. “Flood rose to fame as a center fielder with the Cardinals” (Flood vs. Kuhn 2). Flood’s severe determination helped lead his charge into greatness.
Flood also experienced the same racial hatred that most African American’s in the 1960’s were put through. Spending his minor league career in the South, Flood came across the adversity of racism and segregation on the ball fields as well as off of them. Upon his arrival to the North and his entrance into the Major Leagues, Flood still found inequality. Flood, however, did not take racism lightly. In 1961, Flood, along with teammates, demanded that the St. Louis organization combine its Spring Training facilities so both the teams white and African American players could stay in the same place. Continuing the never-ending battle for equality and freedom, a brave Flood was the one to inform the St. Louis owner that the team’s African American members were being forced to stay away from the team on road trips and not allowed to use the same public facilities. Flood challenged baseball’s...
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