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Messersmith, McNally Declared Free Agents – OTD in Baseball 1975

Wikipedia Commons/Labeled For Reuse

Baseball’s reserve clause was still an issue four decades ago, even after Curt Flood had his career cut short fighting it in 1969. The next few years were filled with the Major League Baseball Players Association trying to work on many labor issues, but it all came to fruition on this day in baseball in 1975. Pitchers Dave McNally and Andy Messersmith both were challenging the reserve clause and felt that they should become free agents, while MLB and their respective teams thought otherwise.

A grievance was filed by the MLBPA on behalf of both players and an arbitration hearing was held that was headed by Peter Seitz. The reserve clause stated that a team can renew a player’s contract for a year at the end of his current deal; management held all the cards.

Both pitchers were resigned by their teams during the 1974 seasons and played the 1975 campaign without being offered another contract. They felt that they were free to negotiate with any teams once that season came to an end; the team owners Los Angeles Dodgers for Messersmith; Montreal Expos for McNally) disagreed and argued that they were still in control of the players’ future.

The arbitrators ruled in favor of the players and they became free agents. Messersmith signed with the Atlanta Braves, while McNally decided to retire after 14 years with an overall 184-119 record. So, in effect, his 185th ‘win’ came in a court setting rather than a ballpark.

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