One of the best books that I’ve come across in my research for the Curt Flood biography for teenagers that I’m currently working on, is a history of the Players Association by Chuck Korr, “The End of Baseball As We Knew It: The Players Union, 1960–1981.” Korr is a professor and sports historian at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. His book on the union is the ideal companion to John Helmer’s “Lords of the Realm” (not to mention the “A Whole Different Ballgame,” by Marvin Miller and “Hardball,” by Bowie Kuhn). Now available in paperback, “The End of Baseball As We Knew It” won the Elysian Fields Quarterly’s Dave Moore Award as the best baseball book published in 2002 and was runner up for SABR Seymour Medal for the North American Society for Sport History’s award best sport history book of the year.
What distinguishes “The End of Baseball As We Knew It” is the fact that Korr had complete access to the Association’s papers and files. It is a remarkably well-documented work, a simply fantastic resource for anyone interested in the history of the union. But Korr wasn’t only interested in the Association’s point-of-view; his interviews with Judge Robert Cannon, who presided over the union before Miller entered the stage, as well as John Gaherin, the owners’ head negotiator during the Miller-Dick Moss years, give the book balance and depth. These two men, along with Frank Scott, who ran the Association on a part-time basis during the Fifties, are often overlooked. But they were key figures in baseball’s labor saga, and Korr makes sure to get their side of the story.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Korr, who is a generous and engaging guy. Here is the first part of our conversation. Enjoy.
Bronx Banter: How did you manage to get access to the records at the Association and how did that help form your book?
Chuck Korr: Ted Simmons read an article I’d written that analyzed how free agency and large salaries for professional athletes in the U. S. and Britain had changed the relationship between them and the fans. He sent a copy of the article to Don Fehr, who was interested in it. Maryanne Ellison Simmons (Ted’s wife and the founder of a very important magazine for wives in baseball, The Waiting Room) and Ted thought it was important to have a historian write about the union and suggested that I should look into the idea. I contacted Fehr and Marvin Miller and when both of them said they would make the records of the union available to me, I decided to set aside the work I was doing and see if it would be possible to write a history of the union. Fehr, Gene Orza, and Mark Belanger did everything possible to assist my work–they gave me an office space when I needed it and wrote letters to everyone whom I wanted to interview. Everyone involved with the union made a commitment to have no control over the final product. In fact, no one involved with the union saw any of the manuscript until after it had gone to the press for outside peer review.