Dave McNally, pitcher who helped open free-agent era, dead at 60
By Associated Press, 12/02/02
Dave McNally in 1967 with the Baltimore Orioles.
(AP File Photo)
BILLINGS, Mont. -- Dave McNally, a three-time All-Star whose landmark victory in an arbitration case opened baseball's free-agent era and led to multimillion-dollar salaries, died of cancer at age 60.
McNally died late Sunday, John Michelotti of Michelotti Sawyers & Nordquist Funeral Home said Monday.
McNally, who won 20 or more games for the Baltimore Orioles in four straight seasons from 1968 to 1971, quit baseball in June 1975 after starting the season 3-6 with Montreal. Even though he said he was retired, the Expos offered him $125,000 to sign a contract.
He refused and joined Andy Messersmith of the Los Angeles Dodgers in a grievance filed by the Major League Baseball Players Association, claiming the teams couldn't renew their contracts in perpetuity.
Arbitrator Peter Seitz agreed with them, issuing the decision on Dec. 23, 1975, that overturned baseball's century-old reserve clause. Owners and the union then negotiated a labor deal under which players could become free agents after they had played in the major leagues for six seasons.
With teams competing to sign the top stars, the average salary rose from $44,000 in 1975 to $2.38 million at the start of this season.
"That was one of the most momentous days in baseball history," baseball commissioner Bud Selig said as the 25th anniversary approached two years ago.
"The difference between winning and losing was billions and billions of dollars, maybe tens of billions of dollars," said Dick Moss, the lawyer who argued the case for the players' association.
Two years ago, just after shortstop Alex Rodriguez signed his record $252 million, 10-year contract, McNally commented on the deal on the day he was honored as Montana's athlete of the century.
"My first thought when I saw that was: Did Texas offer him $250 million and he wanted 2 more?" he told the Billings Gazette. "How did they get to $252 million?"
Players had spent years battling to overturn the reserve clause, losing in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1972 Curt Flood case.
David Arthur McNally was born in Billings on Oct. 31, 1942, and went on to compile a 184-119 record and a 3.24 ERA in 14 major league seasons, the first 13 with the Orioles.
An All-Star in 1969, 1970 and 1972, he was also known as a good batter, hitting 11 home runs in his major league career. He is the only pitcher ever to hit a grand slam in the World Series, doing it in Game 3 in 1970 against Cincinnati's Wayne Granger.
He helped the Orioles win World Series titles in 1966 and 1970, and played for Baltimore's AL pennant-winning teams in 1969 and 1971.
While he was 87-31 from 1968 to 1971, he was overshadowed on the Orioles' staff by Jim Palmer, who went on to become a Hall of Famer. In 1971, McNally, Palmer, Mike Cuellar and Pat Dobson all won 20 or more games for the Orioles, becoming the first teammates to accomplish the feat in the same season since Red Faber, Lefty Williams, Ed Cicotte and Dickie Kerr on the 1920 Chicago White Sox. No one has done it since.
McNally finished his career with 1,512 strikeouts and 33 shutouts, and was inducted into the Orioles' Hall of Fame. He said his biggest thrill was helping the Orioles beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1966 World Series.
Michelotti said funeral arrangements were not compete.