The Flood Gates Open


This Week in 1960s Baseball

(December 24, 1969) The Major League Baseball Players Association today released a letter sent to Commissioner Bowie Kuhn that would rock one of the foundation of the game.

The letter

The letter was from Curt Flood, a three-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove-winning center fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals. On October 7, the Cardinals traded Flood with Byron Browne, Joe Hoerner and Tim McCarver to the Philadelphia Phillies for Dick Allen, Jerry Johnson and Cookie Rojas.

Flood refused to report to the Phillies. In his letter to Kuhn, Flood stated his refusal to report to his new team, citing that he was not a piece of property to be sold. He requested that the commissioner inform all major league teams of his intention to negotiate as a free agent.

Kuhn rejected that request, and Flood subsequently sued Major League Baseball to be declared a free agent. Though Flood lost the suit and subsequent appeals, free agency in baseball became a reality by the mid-1970s.

Flood never played for the Phillies. He sat out the 1970 season and was traded by the Phillies to the Washington Senators. He appeared in 13 games for the Senators in 1971 and then retired.

    • Yes. The Cardinals sent 1B/OF Willie Montanez (April 8, 1970) and pitcher Jim Browning (minors) (August 30, 1970) to the Phillies to complete the trade.

  1. Nice take on a forgotten but very historically significant letter. Readers who want the full background on the Flood case should read Brad Snyder’s A Well Paid Slave and Marvin Miller’s autobiography A Whole New Ball Game. Flood was a flawed man but he had the guts to fight the good fight. He was a trailblazer. He died a few years ago and not one living major league player attended his funeral.

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