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*On this date in 1938, Curtis Charles Flood. He was a Black baseball player and union activist. He was a center fielder who played 15 seasons in the major leagues for the Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals, and Washington Senators.
Born in Houston, Texas, and raised in Oakland, California. Flood played in the same outfield in West Oakland's McClymond’s High School as Vada Pinson and Frank Robinson. All three would eventually sign professional contracts with the Cincinnati Reds. Flood attended McClymond’s High School and transferred to Oakland Technical High School, where he graduated.
Flood was a three-time All-Star, a Gold Glove winner for seven consecutive seasons, and batted over .300 in six seasons. He led the National League (NL) in hits (211) in 1964 and in singles, 1963, 1964, and 1968. Flood also led the National League in putouts as center fielder four times and in fielding percentage as center fielder three times. He retired with the third-most games in center field (1683) in NL history, trailing Willie Mays and Richie Ashburn. Flood became one of the pivotal figures in the sport's labor history when he refused to accept a trade following the 1969 season, ultimately appealing his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Although his legal challenge was unsuccessful, it brought about additional solidarity among players as they fought against baseball's reserve clause and sought free agency.
Flood was married twice and had five children. His first marriage was to Beverly Collins from 1959 until 1966 and together they had five children; Debbie, Gary, Shelly, Scott, and Curt Flood, Jr. Flood later married actress Judy Pace in 1986, whom he had met and dated previously from 1966 until 1970. Diagnosed with throat cancer in 1995, Flood was initially given a 90–95 percent chance of survival. He underwent radiation treatments, chemotherapy, and throat surgery, which left him unable to speak. Just prior to his death, Flood's legacy was acknowledged in Congress in 1997 via the Baseball Fans and Communities Protection Act of 1997.
Numbered HR 21 (Flood's Cardinals uniform number) and introduced in the House of Representatives on the first day of the 105th Congress by Rep. John Conyers, Jr., the legislation established federal antitrust law protection for major league baseball players to the same extent as provided for other professional athletes. Similar legislation, titled the Curt Flood Act of 1998 and sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, was introduced in the Senate and enacted into law the following year. On January 20, 1997, just two days after his 59th birthday, Curt Flood died at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, after developing pneumonia, and was interred in Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood.