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Curt Flood’s heroic legacy — The Undefeated

Curt Flood’s heroic legacy — The Undefeated

“I would like my father within the Corridor of Fame as a result of I perceive that that establishment homes the historical past; he is a vital a part of that historical past.” — Shelly Flood

The 2019 Baseball Corridor of Fame induction ceremony will happen Sunday in Cooperstown, New York. As soon as once more, Curt Flood, writer of probably the most heroic particular person acts of resistance in trendy Main League Baseball historical past, might be excluded.

This yr’s inductees — Harold Baines, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera and Lee Smith — are extremely worthy. However none of them has Flood’s revolutionary résumé, though every benefited from Flood’s act of defiance. None sacrificed as a lot so future generations of main leaguers might reap the rewards.

This isn’t a lament about Flood’s continued rejection by baseball, nevertheless.

That is about Flood’s youngsters.

What should it have been wish to be Flood’s youngsters rising up throughout their father’s battle?

“Some individuals don’t even know he had youngsters,” Debbie Flood stated.

Curt and Beverly Flood had 5 youngsters: Debbie, Gary, Shelly, Curt Jr. and Scott. Gary died at age 49 after years of scuffling with psychological well being points.

Their father was the thorn on a rose that also sticks within the aspect of Main League Baseball.

Whereas Jackie Robinson attacked the nation’s cancerous racism, Curt Flood shot an arrow immediately into the guts of the sport when he challenged the ironclad management that groups had over gamers in 1969.

Whereas most gamers have been too cowardly to help Flood, Robinson confirmed up in courtroom and brazenly embraced him.

Baseball, because of Robinson, has turn out to be a worldwide recreation. Flood, to this present day, is seen by some as antithetical to the large enterprise pursuits of baseball — of all sports activities. He was a star participant who pushed again towards the restrictive established order.

“He contributed to this society identical to everyone else,” Flood’s oldest daughter, Debbie, informed me final week. “He gave up his profession. He misplaced his youngsters, his life, every little thing.”

I’ve spoken at size with Sharon Robinson about what it meant to be Jackie Robinson’s daughter, what it meant to be the kid of a pioneer, an icon. Just like the Floods, the Robinsons misplaced a son as nicely. Jackie Jr. struggled with habit and died in a automotive crash at age 24. Sharon has spoken eloquently about what it meant to share one’s father or mother with the world. And Sharon and her mom, Rachel, have labored feverishly, with an enormous help from Main League Baseball, to maintain their father’s legacy alive. She has written unimaginable books about her father, and the household is about to open a museum in his honor.

Like Jackie Robinson, baseball ought to honor Curt Flood’s sacrifice Learn now

Now the Flood youngsters are talking up and out, and never merely about how their father must be within the Corridor of Fame. They wish to prolong his legacy via the Curt Flood Basis, letting extra individuals know concerning the heroic sacrifice he made 50 years in the past.

His is a dwelling, ongoing historical past. Each time a free — observe: free — agent indicators a profitable contract, or a star refuses a commerce or forces his approach out of an undesirable state of affairs, Flood’s presence is felt.

The message of Flood’s surviving 4 youngsters is that, via them, Curt Flood will stay.

“We’ve by no means actually had a chance to inform our aspect of the story, and what he meant to us and what we went via,” stated Curt Flood Jr., the co-founder and board chair of the Curt Flood Basis.

“Every time individuals speak about my father, his sacrifice, his surmountable and insurmountable struggles, and towards all odds, it’s all the time within the context of him as a single and solitary lone determine,” Flood Jr. stated. “Not true. My father had and has a household. One who liked, supported, cared for him and walked that journey together with him.”

The Floods moved from St. Louis to Oakland, California, in 1962. They lived in an unique neighborhood, attending all-white faculties.

“Oakland was not an excellent time for me; that was not a very good time for us,” Debbie Flood stated. “I fought the entire time I used to be in Alameda, California. I fought daily. Daily. Why? It was due to my father, as a result of I used to be black, due to what my father was doing: He was enjoying baseball. It was like they have been saying, ‘You progress right here, you deliver your black our bodies to Alameda, California, and purchase this excellent home with all these youngsters? How dare you?’ ”

“So it was burning crosses on a entrance garden. We have been going to high school and we have been getting referred to as n—–s. They usually have been questioning why I used to be beating up everyone like I used to be loopy.”

Flood Jr. was born in 1960. “I don’t keep in mind the early years,” he stated. “My awakening occurred in 1965, 1966, 1967. I keep in mind these years clearly. We went to spring coaching with him in 1968. My reminiscence is prefer it occurred yesterday.”

An in depth-up of outfielder Curt Flood in his St. Louis Cardinals uniform.

Getty Photographs

In October 1969, the St. Louis Cardinals traded Flood, a two-time World Collection champion, six-time Gold Glove recipient and 12-year veteran, to the Philadelphia Phillies. Flood did the unspeakable: He turned down a $100,000 wage for 1970 and declined the commerce. He sat out the 1970 season.

His case went so far as the U.S. Supreme Courtroom, the place he misplaced in 1972.

Though he misplaced his problem, Flood’s resistance was sufficient to persuade baseball house owners that the writing was on the wall, and that they’d higher comply with an arbitration system. That system terminated the reserve clause in 1972. Three years later, two white pitchers, Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally, gained arbitration, successfully setting free company in movement.

Baseball has not forgotten nor apparently forgiven Flood for a brave act of defiance that emboldened beforehand timid gamers. Marvin Miller, the previous head of the Main League Baseball Gamers Affiliation, warned Flood that his actions would deny him his rightful place within the Baseball Corridor of Fame.

“No matter determination was made collectively on the time on how Dad can be handled, it remained ironclad, meant to face the check of time. And it has,” Flood’s youngest son, Scott, advised me throughout a current telephone interview.

“Dad was blackballed, plain and easy.”

The sprawling baseball institution resented what Flood stood for. “They hated that he was sensible, a free thinker, conscious of the world and acutely aware of the Civil Rights struggle that was happening outdoors of the baseball area,” Scott Flood stated.

The best proof of bias by the Corridor of Fame is that Flood, together with his credentials, shouldn’t be in it, not whilst a contributor.

Contemplate:

  • Three World Collection appearances, two World Collection championships.
  • Heralded by Sports activities Illustrated in 1968 as one of the best middle fielder in baseball.
  • Winner of consecutive Gold Gloves from 1963 to 1969.
  • Set a serious league document for consecutive possibilities and video games by an outfielder with out an error.
  • Advocated for his group of gamers by making a daring stand towards Main League Baseball.

“He represented an affront to the pureness of baseball and what ‘America’s pastime’ as an establishment stood for and continues to attempt to uphold,” Scott Flood stated.

Flood’s youngsters have been too younger in 1969 to know the complete impression their father’s act of defiance would have on skilled sports activities. Past that, the youngsters have been coping with a rupture of their household. Flood and his first spouse, Beverly Collins, married in 1959 and divorced in 1966.

The household moved to Los Angeles in 1967. Debbie Flood felt the tremors of her father’s actions at College Excessive Faculty. They acquired the blowback when their father took on Main League Baseball.

“We obtained a number of threats on a regular basis due to what he was doing,” Debbie Flood stated. Individuals stated he was destroying the all-American, No. 1 sport. I used to be already enjoying sports activities; I used to be at College Excessive. I keep in mind, as a result of all of the athletic coaches have been like, ‘Oh, my God, you’re the daughter?’ ”

Mom, Beverly (middle). Debbie (seated proper), Curt (seated left), Shelly (flooring proper), Scott (flooring left) and Gary (standing). Los Angeles Circa. 1968.

Courtesy of the Flood Household

“I ended operating. I ended the entire sports activities factor. It was simply turning into too aggressive. They needed you to be him and never who we have been. That’s why [Curt Jr.] stopped. He was like, ‘Oh, no. That is an excessive amount of. I can’t be him.’ ”

In 1969, Curt Jr., 9 years previous, didn’t perceive what all of the fuss was about.

“The difficult concept that his legacy had needed to do with one thing about antitrust and contracts was one thing that a 9-, 10-year-old couldn’t perceive. What he was giving up, what he was sacrificing, was over our heads,” Curt Jr. stated.

“All we knew was that the little we noticed of him previous to leaving baseball was about to get even much less.”

The courtroom battle successfully ended Flood’s profession. At age 32, Flood sat out the 1970 season after refusing to report back to the Phillies.

Flood bats towards the Atlanta Braves whereas with the Cardinals throughout a recreation circa 1967 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

Give attention to Sport/Getty Photographs

Flood performed his final recreation in 1972. Beset with monetary issues, Flood appeared in 13 video games for the Washington Senators, his expertise eroded by the ravages of alcoholism and the pressures of his courtroom case. Between 1972 and 1978, Flood lived in another country, principally residing in Spain and Denmark.

Debbie Flood remembers when her father got here by to inform the household that he was shifting to Spain. Her mom had remarried by then.

“All I keep in mind is my dad walked in and stated to my mom that he was leaving. My stepfather walked in, and my father stated, ‘I’m leaving. You deal with them. I’m accomplished.’ And walked out. I keep in mind Shelly holding on to him.”

Scott Flood, whereas the youngest, remembered that go to as properly.

“My most vivid reminiscence of him is the night time he left for Spain. I should have been about 6 or 7 when that occurred,” he recalled. “The night time he left, he got here to our home. He and my mother have been arguing. He was upset my mom had remarried. She’d married an leisure lawyer with a follow in Beverly Hills; his identify is Richard Johnson. I keep in mind him yelling, at my mother, or the air, or no matter, one thing to the impact of, ‘You will have all this, you’ll be able to deal with them now.’

“He had a driver ready outdoors and he stormed off. He was in all probability consuming, and we didn’t see him once more for an additional 5 years or so.”

Flood cared for his household however misplaced his approach.

“When he began preventing baseball, he walked out on us,” Debbie Flood stated. “That’s what I imply once I say he misplaced his youngsters. His entire focus turned what he was doing. He simply misplaced focus of us and walked away. He didn’t stroll away, he ran off. He left all 5 of his youngsters behind and ran off.”

Scott remembers the day his dad returned.

“The day he got here again he picked us up and took us to the toy retailer and stated we might select something we needed. And I keep in mind my brothers and sisters saying they couldn’t consider I used to be calling him Dad as a result of he’d been gone so lengthy.”

When Flood returned from Europe, he went bowling with Curt Jr.

“At one level he gave me his 1967 World Collection championship ring,” Curt Jr. recalled. “He stated, ‘I’m sorry.’ He didn’t go into a lot element. We went again to bowling, and that was it. I nonetheless have the ring.”

Curt Jr. added: “Every of us had a reference to him in our grownup years. Everybody is aware of he was a deadbeat dad and that he struggled with the illness of alcoholism. However all of us had our specific relationship with him after he received sober.”

“He tried to reconcile the connection with every certainly one of us,” Debbie Flood stated. “A number of the discussions have been very troublesome, however he actually did work at making an attempt to resolve all the problems earlier than he disregarded of right here.”

Flood was recognized with throat most cancers in 1995. Chemotherapy and throat surgical procedure left him unable to talk. He died in January 1997 at age 59.

“Earlier than my father died, I had a chance to actually clear the air with he and I. And he wrote it out as a result of he couldn’t converse any longer,” Debbie Flood recalled. ”All the things he ever wrote me, I stored. We have been capable of squash our variations. Earlier than he died, he stated, ‘I want I had actually been a greater mother or father.’ ”

Like all households, the Floods have had their particular person burdens. Debbie was declared legally deaf when she was 5. Shelly struggled together with her personal habit points and has been sober for greater than 12 years. Curt Jr. had private setbacks and is now again on his ft.

Curt Jr. was a junior in highschool and a soccer participant when his dad returned to the USA. He had been a gifted little league and senior league baseball participant. “However baseball stopped being enjoyable for me round these years,” he stated. He performed soccer till struggling a career-ending damage.

Curt Jr. spent two years at Tuskegee Institute, then joined the Navy, the place he served for 5 years. He attended Northeastern College in Boston and commenced a profession in public relations and advertising.

Debbie Flood turned a social employee/investigator veteran of the Youngsters’s Regulation Middle of California in Los Angeles.

Shelly Flood is a drug and alcohol youth counselor in L.A.

The youngest, Scott Flood, is a documentary movie producer who lives together with his spouse in Brooklyn, New York.

Beverly Collins’ marriage to lawyer Richard Johnson lasted for 10 years. For the previous 42 years, she has been married to musician Albert “Tootie” Heath.

Curt Flood married actress Judy Tempo in 1986, they usually remained married till his demise in 1997.

At the moment, the Flood youngsters are working collectively to increase their father’s legacy whereas reminding modern-day gamers that his sacrifice 50 years in the past echoes at present. Flood illuminated the street that Jackie Robinson paved.


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“It’s a harmonious conversion of our historical past for us: the place we’ve been, the place we’re, who we’re,” Shelly Flood stated. “We need to be answerable for Dad’s legacy by giving again — not the best way he did, as a result of he did it by way of baseball. Debbie and I are social service suppliers; psychological well being, homelessness, all of that, is close to and pricey to our hearts.”

Curt Flood’s youngsters, lengthy silent, have a lot to say.

“My father was an unimaginable man,” Debbie Flood stated. “He was a self-taught man. We’re all from the dust, identical to him. Each final one among us. And I’ve acknowledged that in all of my siblings, of their struggles, their plights and what they’ve completed. I’m positive in the present day, if my father have been right here, he would say, ‘I did a reasonably good job.’ “

William C. Rhoden, the previous award-winning sports activities columnist for The New York Occasions and writer of “Forty Million Greenback Slaves,” is a writer-at-large for The Undefeated. Contact him at william.rhoden@espn.com.

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