Most sports fans have never heard of Bill Fletcher.
He is president of TransAfrica Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit educational and organizing center formed to raise awareness in the United States about issues facing the nations and peoples of Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America.
A columnist that usually sticks to domestic and international politics, Fletcher was moved to write about the late Curt Flood this week after attending his first Washington Nationals game last week.
"Given how important baseball has traditionally been for African Americans, it is very unsettling to see so few of us in attendance. Don't get me wrong: I am not blaming us. Ticket prices have increased substantially, and there is so little carried out in our communities to bring forward new generations of baseball players. Yet, we seem to forget that the fight to desegregate Major League baseball was a key front in the battle for black freedom, actually for years prior to Jackie Robinson's being called up by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947," Fletcher writes in his column on the National Newspaper Publishers Association website.
Fletcher continues, "The other thing that struck me was the appearance of the ghost of Curt Flood. It was Curt Flood's courage that has kept him out of the Baseball Hall of Fame despite his having been such a talented athlete. As a result, his ghost haunts every baseball game. Flood went to court to challenge the reserve clause. Although the challenge did not succeed, it ultimately led to the collapse of the system and the creation of what is now known as free agency.
"Nevertheless, by putting himself on the line for a cause, Flood was forced to pay a price. His career essentially ended, and he was, for all intents and purposes, expunged from baseball. To add insult to injury, neither before his death in 1997 nor subsequently has he been drafted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, despite his excellent career in baseball. In fact, the owners and the baseball establishment wish to punish Flood ad infinitum for the courage of his convictions."
Fletcher said that he approached a black leader of the Federation of Professional Athletes and told him that demanding that Flood be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame was the sort of struggle that it would make sense to initiate. His suggestions "were politely brushed off."
Flood's legacy is slowly fading away, which is what Major League Baseball wishes to happen.
It will take Fletcher, black fans - and, most importantly black players - to remember who Flood was and what he did for Major League Baseball.