It was a day like today but 47 years ago, New Years Eve 1974, that baseball changed forever. That was the day that Jim “Catfish” Hunter left the Oakland Athletics after what a referee named Peter Seitz ruled that the A’s had violated Hunter’s contract by not paying him the money he was owed.
At that point, Hunter, one of the great pitchers of his time, became the first free agent in baseball history. Ring out the old. Call the new one. Hunter signed on December 31, 1974 with the New York Yankees on a five-year, $ 3.25 million deal:
You may not have fully understood how baseball had changed forever because of Seitz’s decision, a year before Seitz essentially terminated baseball’s reserve clause, which had previously tied players to their teams until, already unless, they were released.
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But baseball had changed forever, years after a brave man named Curt Flood ended his career when he challenged the reservation clause to the Supreme Court of the United States.
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