Curt Flood

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Curtis Charles Flood

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Biographical Information[edit]


Centerfielder Curt Flood, who played 15 years in the majors, spent over a decade with the St. Louis Cardinals and was known for his defensive abilities. He did not commit a single error in 1966 and had a 223 consecutive game errorless streak during his career. However, he is best known for his challenge of baseball's reserve clause, which eventually opened the door to free agency.

Flood's notice of transfer to Philadelphia

Although Flood won seven Gold Gloves for his play in center field, he was also a noted hitter. His major-league batting average of .293 was achieved mostly during the second dead-ball era when batting averages were low all around, and he was in the top ten in the league in batting five separate times. In 1964 he led the National League in hits and the Cardinals won the pennant. He was several times among the leaders in doubles, and while he was never a top home run hitter, he had moderate power and four times had 10+ home runs. As a base-stealer his peak was 17 in 1963, but he was terrible early in his career, getting caught 12 times in 14 attempts in 1958.

He played in the World Series of 1964, 1967 and 1968, the first two of which the Cardinals won. These were the post-Stan Musial days, and the only starting position players who were on both the 1964 and the 1968 teams were Flood, Tim McCarver, Mike Shannon, and Lou Brock.

Flood had played three years in the minors before becoming a major league regular. In both 1956 and 1958 he hit .340.

Following the 1969 season, he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in a major deal that also involved slugger Dick Allen. He had been a major leaguer for 12 years and with St. Louis since 1958 (he had started out with the Cincinnati Redlegs in 1956), had established deep roots in the city and was not prepared to move to a city that was known to be unwelcoming to African-American players. Because of the reserve clause, he had no choice in the matter, however, so he decided to protest the trade. On December 24th, he wrote a brief letter to Commissioner Bowie Kuhn:

Dear Mr. Kuhn:

After 12 years in the Major Leagues, I do not feel that I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes. I believe that any system which produces that result violates my basic rights as a citizen and is inconsistent with the laws of the United States and of the several States.

It is my desire to play baseball in 1970, and I am capable of playing. I have received a contract from the Philadelphia club, but I believe I have the right to consider offers from other clubs before making any decisions. I, therefore, request that you make known to all the major league clubs my feelings in this matter, and advise them of my availability for the 1970 season.

Sincerely yours,

Curt Flood

He knew that he was opening a can of worms, and while Kuhn tried to bury the matter by claiming he had no jurisdiction, Flood then filed suit against Kuhn and Major League Baseball, a legal action that eventually was decided by the Supreme Court in 1972. He lost, but the issues he raised could not be ignored. As part of ensuing CBA negotiations, baseball soon adopted the "Five-and-ten" rule, giving any player who was a veteran of ten major league seasons, including the last five with the same team, could veto a trade. A few years later, in 1976, a system of free agency was implemented for the first time. For his part, Flood never reported to Philadelphia and sat out the 1970 season. He started the 1971 season with the Washington Senators after the Phillies traded him again, but the stress he had lived through had affected his playing ability and he was released after 13 games, ending his career.

After his playing career ended, Flood was a radio broadcaster for the Oakland Athletics in 1978. From 1989 to 1990, he was the Commissioner of the Senior Professional Baseball Association. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1995 and died two years later at age 59.

Notable Achievements[edit]

Records Held[edit]

  • Singles, right handed hitter, season, 178, 1964

See also[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • Alex Belth: Stepping Up: The Story of All-Star Curt Flood and His Fight for Baseball Players' Rights, Persea, New York, NY, 2006. ISBN 0892553219
  • Thomas Boswell: "All of Us Bear the Marks of the Lash", in How Life Imitates the World Series, Penguin Books, New York, NY, 1982, pp. 100-101.
  • Curt Flood and Richard Carter: The Way It Is, Trident Press, 1971. ISBN 0671270761
  • Neil F. Flynn: Baseball's Reserve System: The Case and Trial of Curt Flood V. Major League Baseball, Walnut Park Group, Springfield, IL, 2006. ISBN 0977657809
  • Robert M. Goldman: One Man Out: Curt Flood versus Baseball, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 2008. ISBN 0700616039
  • Gabe Lacques: "50 years after his letter changed baseball forever, Curt Flood's sacrifice still resonates", USA Today, December 24, 2019. [1]
  • Jenifer Langosch: "Pioneer Flood changed economics of baseball: By challenging reserve clause, former All-Star set the stage for free agency",, January 17, 2023. [2]
  • Brad Snyder: A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood's Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports, Viking, New York, NY, 2006. ISBN 0452288916

Related Sites[edit]