Despite Erb’s Palsy, A Historic Sports Figure
Many Major League Baseball (MLB) fans and players know Marvin Miller as the powerful labor union organizer. However, Miller’s amazing career in baseball happened only by a twist of fate. Growing up in Brooklyn, Miller wanted to be a high school teacher, like his mother. After college, he took all of his service exams and finished high on the high school teachers’ hiring list. Then he was dealt a blow, according to a recent Fortune interview (Miller granted the interview before his death in November 2012).
Miller said he was told that being a teacher simply wasn’t going to happen. Why? Because he was born with Erb’s Palsy. This is a condition caused by a birth injury to the brachial plexus. This is the network of nerves that send signals from the spine to the shoulders, arms and hands. An improper delivery technique can stretch or tear the nerves in the brachial plexus network. When the upper nerves are damaged, the injury leads to Erb’s Palsy. This birth injury can result in the child having a limp arm, or being unable to move the shoulder, arm, hand or fingers
Erb’s Palsy drastically affected Miller’s career choice. As Miller recounted: “Someone told me, ‘You finished well on the lists, but you have a birth injury [Erb's Palsy] to your right arm, and you carry it in a peculiar manner. And we don't think this is a good example in the classroom.’ So I was barred.”
Later, in 1966, Miller became the first executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). This was a time when players’ minimum salaries had for 20 years been capped at a miserly $6,000. Miller raised that minimum to $10,000, and frequently played hardball with owners. During his 16-year tenure with the MLBPA, Miller oversaw three labor strikes and two lockouts.
Thanks to Miller, a player’s average pay rose to $241,000. (Today’s minimum is $480,000, and the average salary is $3.4 million.) Overall, the league is doing well, too, with annual revenue of about $7 billion. That's nearly 140 times it what was when Miller first took office.
Incredibly, the type of discrimination Miller faced still occurs today. But, as Miller shows, where one door closes, a better one can open. If your child possibly suffered from negligent medical care that resulted in a birth injury such as Erb’s Palsy, call Sokolove Law for a free consultation.