For Flood, it wasn't just about the money

Posted: July 13, 2011

HBO offers an important sports documentary debuting Wednesday in The Curious Case of Curt Flood. If you know your sports history, you remember that Flood was the man who started baseball on a path toward the free-agency era. The 31-year-old sued Major League Baseball rather than report to the Phillies after he was traded from St. Louis following the 1969 season.

Flood didn't win his court case, but few question that his actions were crucial in raising awareness about the fairness of the system, which tied players to teams for life.

"There were years in which I would explain during spring-training meetings the significance of the Flood case and talk about Curt," former players association head Marvin Miller told HBO. "Sometimes you'd get a quiet clubhouse. . . . Somebody would say, 'Who'd he play for?' "

"I think the only thing he ever got was [former pitcher] Mike Torrez gave him the gold chain around his neck: 'Oh, this is for what you've done. . . . Thank you. We all owe you a lot,' " said Flood's former girlfriend, Karen Brecher. "And he felt they did owe him a lot."

One of the reasons Flood, who died of throat cancer in 1997, was so important was that he framed the issue on moral grounds, not just in monetary terms, historian Gerald Early pointed out. "It's important for you to see it as a moral issue," Early said. "He did that for you in a way that [Andy] Messersmith, [Dave] McNally, and all those early free agents would not have done it for you."

A rarity in racing:

An actual rivalry, spanning more than one year. On Sunday, the Delaware Handicap features probably the top two fillies and mares in training this year, 4-year-olds Havre de Grace and Blind Luck, last year's 3-year-old champion filly. The two horses will meet for the sixth time. So far, each has won twice, with Blind Luck finishing second and Havre de Grace third in last year's Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic.

The rivalry began in last year's Delaware Oaks, when Blind Luck beat Havre de Grace by a nose. But this year, Havre de Grace is undefeated in three starts. She's the home team in this one, trained by Larry Jones, owned by Rick Porter. Blind Luck is the California invader, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer.

Jones said Havre de Grace may turn out to be the best horse he's ever had. That's no small thing, since Jones has come in second twice in the Kentucky Derby in two consecutive years with Hard Spun (2007) and Eight Belles (2008). But kudos to Hollendorfer for not ducking him this year. Of course, there are $750,000 reasons he is making the trip for the Delaware Handicap's 74th renewal. Havre de Grace, to be ridden by Ramon Dominguez, is the 4-5 favorite. Garrett Gomez will be on Blind Luck, the 7-5 second choice.

U.S. women's encore

The United States is the strong favorite Wednesday in its Women's World Cup semifinal. It will be interesting to see whether the defensive adjustments made by U.S. coach Pia Sundhage before the quarterfinals carry over and whether there is any letdown after Sunday's emotional comeback win over Brazil.

On paper, the United States is the best team remaining in the World Cup. But that paper was written before the Americans were outclassed by Sweden in group play. The Swedes face Japan in Wednesday's other semifinal.

Contact staff writer Mike Jensen at 215-854-4489 or

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