For 39 years, the byline appeared in The New York Times probably more than any other. This week it is making a return engagement. It’s the byline you have seen on this Web site approximately 550 times in the past five years:
Why is it back in the Times?
It is the culmination of a two-year effort to get the Times to set the record straight on free agency and unconfuse its readers. Some of my critics – yes, I have critics; what fun would I have writing this column if some readers didn’t disagree with me? – have attributed my desire to induce the Times to acknowledge and correct its errors as a way to embarrass the newspaper.
That, however, was not my goal. I am a fanatic for accuracy, and the Times’ mistakes on free agency were going to live in its archives forever. Fifty years from now some school kid was going to research a school paper on free agency and find that the Times said Curt Flood’s losing lawsuit and Catfish Hunter’s breach-of-contract grievance created free agency.
I wanted the Times to correct its errors so readers would know the facts, not some writer’s fantasy.
After writing to a variety of Times editors, including the public editor, and getting nothing but rejection, I raised the issue with the relatively new sports editor, Jason Stallman, whom I didn’t know but who turned out to be a man of wisdom and class.
He asked if I would write a piece explaining the origins of free agency and the fate of arbitrators who make major decisions that are not liked by one side or the other. I accepted his invitation, and the result was posted on the Times’ Web site Wednesday evening and published in the print edition of the Times Thursday.