SABR’s latest Baseball Research Journal is devoted to baseball and the law. Shysterball, some call this subject. It seems to be the second most popular topic in the sabersphere after rating players using advanced metrics. One article mentions perhaps one of the most celebrated cases in the pastime’s history; Flood V. Kuhn. The defendant was Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where it lost. But it was a signal that the times, they were a changin'.
The plaintiff, Curt Flood, was a centerfielder for the Saint Louis Cardinals who felt that his rights were violated when he was traded by that team to the Philadelphia Phillies. He had been with Saint Louis for over a decade. Won two World Series with the Cardinals. You may have heard Tim McCarver talk about him. Before that he was with Cincinnati and their farm system. They miscast him as an infielder.
But before he became a big league star, he played in Oakland. Not for the A’s. They were still in Kansas City at the time. He played for McClymonds High School. He was a teammate of Vada Pinson. A number of players came from that school and its rivals during that era. They had a helluva coach in George Powles. Other McClymonds Warriors included Willie Tasby, Frank Robinson, Jesse Gonder, and Bill Russell.
That wasn’t Russell the shortstop. That was Russell the basketball center. He would go on to win two NCAA titles with the University of San Francisco, a gold medal in the 1956 Olympics, and eleven NBA titles with the Boston Celtics. He was also the first black coach in a bigtime professional sport when he took over the Celts in 1967. Before he became player-coach at Boston, the head coach was Red Auerbach.
Auerbach was an alum of George Washington University in the District of Columbia. He coached and taught in high schools for a few years after graduating from there. One school he coached at was Roosevelt High. While there, he noticed that the tallest kid in school was not on the basketball team. He stopped him in the hall one day and asked him why he was never tried out.
“Because I’m a lousy player,” replied the student.
“Let me be the judge of that.” said Auerbach.
After a weeks worth of practices, they both came to the conclusion that the kid didn’t belong on a basketball court. The student’s name was Bowie Kuhn.