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A seven-time Gold Glover, Flood quit the game when he was 33.
In today's game, such a move would be absurd. A 33-year-old Center Fielder with a career average of .293 who frequently posted an OPS+ over 110 to match his stellar defense at the end of his contract would be licking his chops over the contract he'd get the next season.
Such is life in the world of Free Agency.
So, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Alfonso Soriano, thank your lucky stars you played after Curt Flood.
Flood played under the reserve clause, which, as his biography puts it, made him a very well paid slave. Without going into the nitty gritty of the old system, the owner of a team could renew the contract of any player at no greater than a 20 percent pay cut.
Put in modern terms, the team held one year options on every player and could force them to take a pay cut as the situation saw fit. No-trade clauses were a fantasy, and that's what got Flood's goat.
Despite being a All-Star the year prior, Flood was traded to the Phillies from the Cardinals in a move to bring in cheaper players. Flood didn't want to move to Philly, a city well known for treating Jackie Robinson worse than any felon, and so, in lieu of playing for the Phillies, he retired and sued baseball for his rights as a free agent.
Flood himself was never granted free agency, but his lawsuit set in motion the process that ended the reserve clause and opened the doors to the modern system we all know and love (well, know, at least).
Baseball teams would look very different today if Flood had agreed to play for Philly. Whether it would be better or worse can be debated, but Flood deserves credit for having the guts to stand up to a system that he believed was unfair.