Curt Flood in The 1960s
Curt Flood (1938-1997) was an All-Star center fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals and the first high-profile player to challenge Major League Baseball’s reserve clause. Raised in Oakland, California, Flood signed a contract with the Cincinnati Reds in 1956 and was traded to the Cardinals the following year. A three-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove winner, Flood captained St. Louis teams that won three National League pennants and two World Series titles. In 1969, he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. He refused the trade and sued Major League Baseball, arguing that the reserve clause that gave the Cardinals lifetime control over Flood's labor violated antitrust laws and the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
Flood’s case against baseball (Flood v. Kuhn) was heard by the United States Supreme Court in 1972. The Court held that, because of baseball’s unique place in American culture, it was exempt from antitrust regulation. After sitting out a year, Flood signed with the Washington Senators in 1971, but his comeback attempt was unsuccessful. He died in 1997 of throat cancer. In 1975, an independent arbitrator ruled that the reserve clause only bound a player for one year beyond his contract, introducing free agency to major league baseball. In 1998, Congress passed the Curt Flood Act legislatively terminating the reserve clause and bringing baseball into alignment with the nation’s antitrust laws.