A WELL-PAID SLAVE
After the 1969 baseball season, the St. Louis Cardinals traded their star centerfielder Curt Flood to the Philadelphia Phillies, setting off a chain of events that would change professional sports forever. At the time, there was no such thing as free agency. Baseball players were bound to their teams for life by a paragraph in the standard player contract known as the reserve clause. As a result, players could not receive fair market value for their services. More importantly, players had no control over where or for whom they played. When a player was traded, he had two choices: report to his new team or retire. Curt Flood chose door number three: he sued Major League Baseball for his professional freedom.
Flood was not a typical ballplayer. Artistic, well-read, fiercely intelligent, and politically active, Flood was strongly influenced by the example of Jackie Robinson, who personally recruited Flood into the civil rights movement. After twelve years with the Cardinals, Flood's roots had grown deep into the St. Louis soil. A three-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove winner, Flood had become an integral member of the Cardinals' 1960s World Series teams that also featured Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Orlando Cepeda and Tim McCarver. He also had established a photography and portrait-painting business in St. Louis, which he stood to lose by moving to Philadelphia. Unlike countless others before him, Flood refused to have his life uprooted against his wishes and was willing to sacrifice his baseball career so that no future player would have to endure a similar indignity.
A Well-Paid Slave provides the first in-depth look at Flood's lawsuit and its impact on both professional sports and the man who had the courage to see it through to the highest court in the land. Flood's suit would prove to be a crucial event in the history of professional sports, affording Flood a historical status often compared to that of Robinson, but it remains both underappreciated and misunderstood. With A Well-Paid Slave, Brad Snyder sets the record straight, connecting the dots between Flood's suit and the arrival of free agency while providing insights into the political mechanisms of both Major League Baseball and the federal judicial system, and the heart and mind of Curt Flood himself. A true pioneer, Flood is owed an enormous debt by today's multi-million-dollar athletes who, unlike Flood, can now choose where and for whom they play.