MILLER, MARVIN JULIAN (1917– ), one of the most influential figures in American sports history, baseball's first labor leader who served as executive director of the Major League Baseball Players' Association (MLBPA) from 1966 to 1982. Miller was born in the Bronx and raised in Brooklyn, New York, by his father Alexander, a salesman of women's coats on the Lower East Side and a member of the wholesale clothing workers union, and by his mother Gertrude (Wald), an elementary-school teacher in New York's public schools who became one of the early members of the city's teachers' union. Miller studied first at the University of Miami and then at New York University, where he graduated in 1938. He worked at the National War Labor Relations Board, the Machinist Union, the United Auto Workers, and the United Steelworkers union, where he was assistant to the president and its leading economist and negotiator. On March 5, 1966, the baseball player representatives elected him executive director of the MLB Players' Association. Through his innovative thinking and keen negotiating skills, Miller united a loosely organized association and transformed it into one of the strongest unions in the United States, thereby revolutionizing baseball. As a pioneer in the unionization of professional athletes, Miller was instrumental in its development into a powerful labor union that transformed the economics and labor relations of baseball, which led ultimately to profound changes in the nature of U.S. professional sports and their place in society. He led the baseball union to two strikes, the first on April 1, 1972, which lasted 13 days and was the first successful strike in the history of professional sports, and again in 1981, which lasted 50 days.
Among Miller's accomplishments were the recognition of the players' union; the right to bargain collectively; the use of agents to negotiate individual contracts; an end to the reserve clause, with free movement from team to team through free agency; arbitration in labor disputes; the right for veteran players to veto trades; and a vastly improved pension plan funded largely through percentages of television revenue. During Miller's tenure, major league players saw their minimum salary jump from $6,000 to $33,500, while the average salary rose from $19,000 to over $240,000. Miller also instituted changes to make the game safer, successfully bargaining for improved scheduling and padded outfield walls, better-defined warning tracks, and safer locker rooms. Journalist Red Barber called Miller "one of the three most important men in baseball history," along with Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, and author Studs Terkel said Miller was "the most effective union organizer since John L. Lewis." In 2000, The Sporting News ranked Miller fifth on its list of the "100 Most Powerful People in Sports for the 20th Century." Miller was the author of A Whole Different Ball Game: The Sport and Business of Baseball (1991).