Belth's biography of Curt Flood, a dynamic centerfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1960s, sheds light on an important player in baseball history. After signing a contract with the Cincinnati Reds out of high school in 1956, Flood began feeling racism's sting. These struggles, which included living and eating separately from his white teammates, turned Flood into a socially aware, defiant man. When he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1969, Flood sacrificed his career and $90,000 paycheck and sued Major League Baseball, claiming that the reserve clause, which gave the owners perpetual control of a player's contract, was illegal. Belth, host of a Yankees fan blog, shines in the second half of the book, as Flood's clash with the owners and Major League Baseball becomes a conflict between nostalgia and antitrust laws that reaches the Supreme Court in 1972. Though Flood lost, the reverberations of the lawsuit were widespread. Still, Flood was accused by the press, fans and even some fellow ballplayers of ruining America's pastime, and he withdrew from the game and from life. Belth's final chapters capture the benefits and drawbacks of sacrificing oneself for the good of the whole. Photos. (Mar.)
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Curt Flood was an outstanding center fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1960s. His baseball career was cut short by conscience, not injury. When he was traded after the 1969 season, he refused to report to his new team and mounted a legal challenge to baseball's reserve clause, which bound a player to a team forever, unless the team chose to trade or release him. Flood sat out the 1970 season while the case wound its way to the Supreme Court, where he lost. But Flood's challenge eventually paved the way for what is now known as free agency, the vehicle that has made millionaires of even journeyman major leaguers. Belth's biography recounts Flood's modest youth, his minor-league stops in the Jim Crow south, and his stellar major-league career, homing in on the circumstances and personal characteristics that would lead him to the role of trailblazer. He retired from the game at the young age of 32, deeply hurt by the animosity he encountered, even among some of his shortsighted peers. An incisive portrait of an underappreciated baseball icon. Wes Lukowsky
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Alex Belth's "Stepping UP" is slim pickings. It is a sportswriter's cursory portrait of Flood sacrificing his career for the benefit of all players suffering from the restrictions... Read morePublished on January 9, 2007 by Stuart L. Weiss
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