A Well Paid Slave.

AuthorMandell, David
PositionBook review

A Well Paid Slave By Brad Snyder

Reviewed by David Mandell

In 1969, Curt Flood had achieved the American dream. A star outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, he enjoyed the fame of a major league ballplayer and a $90,000 salary. Widely respected in St. Louis, Flood also ran a flourishing art business. Despite all this, one thing was lacking--his freedom. The Cardinals, like all major league clubs of the time, owned a player for his lifetime. Under baseball's reserve clause, a club could buy, trade, or sell a player as if he were a surplus box of bats. At the end of the 1969 season, the Cardinals traded Flood to Philadelphia. Flood refused to report to the Phillies and took his case all the way to the United States Supreme Court. Flood's struggle is the subject of Brad Snyder's illuminating new book, A Well Paid Slave.

Snyder, an attorney in Washington, D.C., traces Flood's unlikely path to the Supreme Court. Flood endured the worst indignities of segregation as he traveled through the minor league circuits. Many of his fellow players and sports reporters ridiculed Flood when he refused to go to Philadelphia, arguing that Flood would still be paid $90,000, a large sum for players of the era. But Flood turned the money down. A well paid slave, he said, is still a slave. Instead, Flood sued baseball, accusing it of violating antitrust laws.

Snyder points out that Flood faced a huge obstacle. The Supreme Court had ruled that baseball was exempt from antitrust laws, so Flood had to convince it to accept his case and reverse a 50-year-old precedent. With access to the surviving lawyers and the court records, Snyder reveals events that have never been reported throughout this uphill battle.

Flood needed the players' union to assist him because he could not afford the costs of antitrust litigation. The union agreed to back Flood, but at a price. Its leadership insisted on picking Flood's legal team, and as Snyder shows, this proved disastrous.

The full trial that followed took a toll on Flood. With little to do and without income he began drinking heavily. Although his fellow players...

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