After his election, Mr. Miller was taken aside by Joe Cronin, the president of the American League. “I’ve got some advice for you,” he said. “The players come and go, but the owners stay forever.”
More prescient was the advice received by Bowie Kuhn, then assistant general counsel to the National League, when he asked a Harvard law professor how much help he would need now that the players had hired a union leader. The professor said, “Bowie, you need lots of help.”
Within two years, Mr. Miller had gotten the first across-the-board increase in the minimum salary in 20 years, from $6,000 a year to $10,000. Comparable improvements in travel, meal allowances, and pension benefits soon followed.
In 1970, the union backed Curt Flood, an outfielder who had been traded from St. Louis to Philadelphia, when he filed suit in federal court contending that the reserve clause was illegal. The Supreme Court dismissed the case two years later, but in so doing called the reserve clause an “aberration.”
The clause was overturned three years later. Encouraged by Mr. Miller, pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally filed a grievance after they had played a season without signing a contract and then had it automatically renewed. An arbitrator ruled in the players’ favor. A basic agreement negotiated by Mr. Miller and the owners in 1976 created the system of free agency that has remained in effect since then.
Mr. Miller retired from the union in 1982. A year later, he returned as executive director when his successor, Kenneth Moffett, was fired by the players. He stepped down in 1984, when Fehr was elected to the post.
In December 2002, Mr. Miller was nominated for inclusion in baseball’s Hall of Fame. He has not been elected for induction, however. “No man ever had the impact that that man had on the game,” former Red Sox general manager Lou Gorman once said. “Not Babe Ruth, not Ted Williams, not Sandy Koufax. No one.”
Besides his daughter, Mr Miller leaves a son, Peter, and a grandson.