Thursday, January 20, 2011

Celebrity Grave: Baseball Player Curt Flood 1997


Curtis Charles Flood (January 18, 1938–January 20, 1997) was a Major League Baseball player who spent most of his career as a center fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals. A defensive standout, he led the National League in putouts four times and in fielding percentage twice, winning Gold Glove Awards in his last seven full seasons from 1963–1969. He also batted over .300 six times, and led the NL in hits (211) in 1964. He retired with the third most games in center field (1683) in NL history, trailing only Willie Mays and Richie Ashburn.

Flood became one of the pivotal figures in the sport's labor history when he refused to accept a trade following the 1969 season, ultimately appealing his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Although his legal challenge was unsuccessful, it brought about additional solidarity among players as they fought against baseball's reserve clause and sought free agency.

Flood wrote an apologetic and defensive autobiography entitled The Way It Is. He also indulged in his love of painting. Ultimately, the reserve clause was struck down in 1975, when arbitrator Peter Seitz ruled that since pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally played for one season without a contract, they could become free agents. This decision essentially dismantled the reserve clause and opened the door to widespread free agency. Seitz's decision was based on the vague wording of the reserve clause in the standard players' contract, and Flood's unsuccessful challenge had little or no bearing on the ruling.

Shortly after his retirement, Flood owned a bar in the Spanish resort town of Palma de Mallorca where he moved to escape from bankruptcy of his Curt Flood Associates business, from two lawsuits, and from an IRS lien on a home he bought for his mother. He eventually returned to baseball as part of the Oakland Athletics' broadcasting team in 1978. He was also the commissioner of the short-lived Senior Professional Baseball Association in 1988.

In his spare time, Flood painted. His 1989 oil portrait of Joe DiMaggio sold at auction for $9,500.

Flood stopped smoking in 1979, and drinking in 1986, despite having been a heavy drinker and smoker for years. Diagnosed with throat cancer in 1995, Flood was originally given a 90% chance of survival, but Flood died in Los Angeles, California at his home. Flood was survived by his five children, Debbie, Gary, Shelly, Scott and Curt Flood Jr., a wife, actress Judy Pace and her two daughters. Flood was interred in Inglewood Park Cemetery, Inglewood California.



His legacy was remembered in Congress via a bill, the Baseball Fans and Communities Protection Act of 1997; numbered HR 21 (Flood's Cardinals uniform number) and introduced on the first day of the 105th Congress in 1997 by Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Michigan), removing baseball's controversial antitrust exemption with regards to labor. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced similar legislation in the Senate that year, called the Curt Flood Act of 1998 (SB 53).

Curt Flood is also a non-participating but pivotal character in the book Our Gang by Philip Roth.

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