While he did not hit 500 home runs and is not enshrined in Baseball's Hall of Fame, Flood's impact on the sport was substantial. Interrupting his flourishing All-Star career to fight for free agency at age 31, he was a pioneering figure in challenging baseball's reserve clause, foreshadowing the emergence of free agents in professional sports.
"Every player in every team sport owes a debt of gratitude to Curt Flood," says Ross Greenburg, president, HBO Sports. "His life story is a very complex character study. His battle to win free agency and have the right to choose where to work is an inspiring story. He is one of the giants in the history of sports, but has largely been forgotten."
In 1956, Curt Flood signed with the Cincinnati Reds and made a handful of appearances for the club before being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in Dec. 1957. While a member of the Cardinals, his career blossomed. An accomplished hitter and outstanding outfielder, Flood started for the Cardinals during the rise of the Civil Rights movement and was frequently the target of racism.
The 5'9" Flood was a three-time All-Star and a seven-time Gold Glove Award winner for his defensive prowess in centerfield. He made three World Series appearances with the Cardinals (who won in 1964 and 1967) alongside teammates and future Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Lou Brock.
However, Curt Flood's legacy has little to do with his on-field accomplishments. His biggest contribution was paving the way for modern free agency. After being traded from the Cardinals to Philadelphia Phillies in 1969, Flood refused to report to his new team, challenging the reserve clause that bound a player to a team in perpetuity.
The Supreme Court case that ultimately ensued would not end favorably for Flood, who sat out the entire 1970 season as his case moved through the judicial system. While he received little support from influential active players at the time, Flood's actions brought valuable attention to the slave-like provisions of baseball's reserve clause. Today, he is remembered as the man whose courage and sacrifice turned even major league bench players into millionaires.
Curt Flood was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1996 and passed away Jan. 20, 1997.
Interviewees include: Flood's widow, Judy Pace Flood; his daughter, Shelly Flood; sister Rickie Riley; friends Bill Patterson, Sam and Ed Bercovich, Wendy Potyrala, Clark Parker and Karen Brecher; former St. Louis Cardinals stars Bob Gibson, Joe Torre and Tim McCarver; former major leaguers Elliott Maddox, Dal Maxvill and Jim "Mudcat" Grant; journalists Brad Snyder and Richard Reeves; historian Dr. Gerald Early; personal attorney Allan Zerman; former Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) officials Marvin Miller and Richard Moss; and attorney Lou Hoynes.
The executive producers of THE CURIOUS CASE OF CURT FLOOD are Ross Greenburg and Rick Bernstein; senior producer, Joe Lavine; producer, Ezra Edelman; writer, Aaron Cohen; narrator, Liev Schreiber; editor, Charles Marquardt; original music composed by Gary Lionelli.