I recently finished the book Stepping Up:The Story of Curt Flood and His Fight for Baseball Players Rights by Alex Belth. Some of you may know Alex as the writer for the Yankees blog Bronx Banter.
I thought the book was terrific. From reading it, you really get a very good understanding of Curt Flood and the complex situations he was put in. From a highly scouted talent from the unsegregated Bay Area to a taunted and jeered black ballplayer trying to make it through the minor league ranks in the Jim Crow south, Flood’s life was shaped by opposition. Reading the things he went through gave me an even greater respect that black ballplayers had put up with in those days. Because of these things, Flood became a very socially aware person and the type of person who wouldn’t put up with injustice, which is exactly what he saw the reserve what as.
As most of you know, he fought long-established reserve clause (unsuccessfully) and his career was cut short because of it. But the things he suffered because of mentally, financially and emotionally because of his stand are saddening.
Those of course are the main points of the book, but also Belth relives the excitement of the World Series of 64, 67 and 68 and also lends some insight into some of Flood’s teammates like Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Tim McCarver and Bill White. Any Cardinal fan will certainly enjoy that. The book also shows another side of Curt. For example, I didn’t know he was such a prolific artist, so much so that Flood was selected to paint a portait of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Nor did I know he used to be a broadcaster for the Oakland A’s. And you see an interesting bit about his family life, and the friendships he had and how it formed him.
All in all, the book has some feel good moments, as you get a better idea of how exceptional of a player Flood was and what an electrifying time it was to be a fan of the Cardinals in the 60’s. But the overall theme and tone of the book of course is the injustice Flood fought, as a black man dealing with racism and segregation, and especially as a ballplayer who had little to say in terms of his freedom to play for the team that was willing to pay him his due and have to fight a no-win battle against a powerful and unfair system that baseball was.
As I said, I think every major league baseball player should read this book to appreciate the the sacrifice that Flood payed to pave the way to free agency as we know it now. And every baseball fan I think would enjoy this book and see not only a great center fielder, but a very courageous person in the man named Curtis Charles Flood.