August 2015: Curt Flood was inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals Baseball Hall of Fame .
Many thanks! A SUPREME DECISION: The Curt Flood Symposium was phenomenal, and its distinguished speakers and scholar presenters, absolutely superb. Clearly well-researched; well-strategized and planned; and well-organized and executed, the two-day event for me was incredibly enlightening, informative and rewarding. And while both you gentlemen [Bob Kendrick and Ray Doswell]–as well as Betty Brown, Joan Finley, and the rest of team at NLBM–had already earned my lifelong admiration and respect for your dedication and commitment to preserving the historical significance and legacy of Negro Leagues Baseball, I am wholly gratified and thankful to each of you for making The Curt Flood Symposium a reality and success that it was.
Curt Flood, Jr.
The symposium was an enlightening experience. The nuances of the Flood case, along with the personal stories that underpinned it, are typically lost in the larger discussion of the economics of baseball but at the symposium they were unearthed and debated in new and fascinating ways. Listening to Allen Zerman and Lou Hoynes discuss their legal strategies and approaches to the case was captivating. In learning from Curt Flood, Jr., how the case affected him and his family, I gained new insight as to the devastating consequences the case had on the people most affected by it. The NLBM was the perfect setting for such a discussion — hearing Flood speak in a room dedicated to the telling of what would otherwise be forgotten stories gave his perspective on the case even greater resonance. My thanks to Raymond Doswell Bob Kendrick , and every one at the NLBM for putting together such a remarkable conference. I can’t wait for the next one.
Your conference is about a man whose presence every high school and American Legion ball player in Oakland knew when I began Oakland High School in 1956, the year after he graduated from high school. Curt Flood, along with Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, as well as their other teammates, were heroes to us. However, Curt Flood’s story began with someone most people in the game don’t know. In fact, very few have even heard his name.
In more than 30 years as a coach of all sports at McClymonds High School, and later at Skyline High School, Coach George Powles’s led teams who won 28 Oakland Athletic League championships. This veteran of WWII made an indelible mark on thousands of young men of all races, creeds, and colors. His contribution came through leveraging every opportunity, as a teacher and as a coach, for student athletes, at McClymonds High School and elsewhere. He did so, humbly and thoughtfully. He dealt with everyone he met, with a smile, a warm handshake, and as a presumptively worthwhile individual.
Coach Powles’ had a key role–quiet, unpretentious role–in the birth of the civil rights movement prompted in no small part by his shared leadership with Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson a continent away in Brooklyn in 1947, the same year that Coach Powles began his inspired work at McClymonds High School.
In unknowing concert, while 3,000 miles apart, a white coach at a black high school, and a white lawyer and a black athlete, peacefully—without government incentive or intervention—changed baseball and the nation. Some will think it an exaggeration to relate baseball to the genesis of the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not think so and told Mr. Rickey and Mr. Robinson as much. United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren did not think so and told his son, and my friend and colleague, Judge Earl Warren, Jr. as much.
I knew Coach Powles. As a student at Oakland High School, 1956-1959, I played against his high school and American Legion teams. We usually lost, although we did tie the High School team for the Oakland Athletic League Championship in 1959. It was our first championship in 40 years, but just another victory for McClymonds High School.
My junior high coach, Ernie Fernandes, and my future Oakland High coach, Mike Marcoulis took, took me with them to some American Legion games in 1955. We marveled at Coach Powles’s centerfielder, Curt Flood. He was small and slim, but obviously remarkable. How remarkable we did not know at the time. As we all know now, Mr. Flood would star in the Major Leagues for many years. More importantly, he would change the game of baseball forever.
In my profession, Flood is a renowned litigant, known to every lawyer and judge because of his courageous lawsuit against baseball. By his sacrifice and suffering for the common good, he became and remains an exemplar to other baseball players everywhere.
I am unashamed to say that my baseball coaches, along with Coach Powles, AND Curt Flood were role models for me. These men helped change my life.
The Honorable George Nicholson, Associate Justice, Third Appellate District, Court of Appeals, State of California.
The Symposium has ended, but the conversation continues. This blog site will remain and offer continued images and information about Curt Flood and related subjects. Please continue to follow and use this site as a resource for study. More posts to come!
Curt Flood (1938-1997) grew up in Oakland, California and became an iconic figure in sports and history when he refused a trade and challenged Major League Baseball’s restrictive “reserve clause” and its long standing anti-trust status. His legal case rose as far as the United States Supreme Court in 1972. He lost his challenge, and his baseball career, but helped pave the way for free agency in baseball.
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) and the National Archives at Kansas City (NARA), in partnership with Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association/University of Missouri-Kansas City Continuing Legal Education (KCMBA/UMKC-CLE), will present “A Supreme Decision: The Curt Flood Symposium” on Sunday and Monday March 30-31, 2014. Guests and scholars at the symposium will discuss Flood’s personal and professional life, his influences from the Civil Rights Movement, his impact on sports and media, as well as the various arguments and precedents surrounding his legal case.
This site will serve as the cyberspace home of the symposium, complete with documents, links, photographs, news and information in association with the event. Please use it as a resource to study and comment on the legacy of Curt Flood to sports and the law.