WASHINGTON — Curt Flood’s widow has a simple explanation for why her late husband, who is revered by players for sacrificing his career to advocate for free agency, has not been enshrined in baseball’s Hall of Fame.

“I think the holdup is that he got on a lot of people’s nerves,” Judy Pace Flood said.

Flood has some powerful advocates on his side.

Members of Congress sent a letter to the Hall of Fame on Thursday asking that Flood be elected in December by the next golden era committee. The recognition would coincide with the 50-year anniversary of Flood’s defiant letter to baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn in which he wrote, “I do not feel that I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes.”

“What Curt Flood did and championed is resonating throughout professional sports for the past 50 years,” Rep. David Trone, a Maryland Democrat who is leading the push for Flood’s enshrinement, said at a news conference.

Flood was 31 when he sent that letter on Dec. 24, 1969. He had spent most of the past decade as the starting center fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals. A three-time All-Star, Flood won seven consecutive Gold Gloves and helped lead the Cardinals to three National League pennants and two World Series titles.

“What a great ballplayer,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican. “When the great Stan Musial was finishing up his career in right field, Curt Flood would play all of center and about half of right so that Stan the Man could still be on the team.”

After the 1969 season, Flood asked the Cardinals for a pay raise. Instead, they traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies. Under , players were fully under the control of their teams.

Flood refused the trade and, with the backing of players’ union executive director Marvin Miller, filed a federal lawsuit in January 1970 challenging the reserve clause. The Supreme Court ruled against him in a 5-3 decision in 1972, but the justices agreed Flood’s arguments had merit. They said they could not intervene because it was up to Congress to alter the antitrust exemption created in 1922 when the Supreme Court ruled baseball was not interstate commerce.

The union kept fighting, and the reserve clause was struck down in December 1975 by arbitrator Peter Seitz in a case involving pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally. The following July, owners and the union agreed to a labor contract that included free agency.

“I will tell people to this day: Curt did not lose that case,” Pace Flood said.

Flood’s efforts essentially ended his career. He only played in 13 more games in the majors after his letter to Kuhn. With 1,861 hits, a .293 batting average and his defensive prowess, Flood could have retired with Hall of Fame-worthy numbers had he spent several more seasons as a regular player.

Flood battled alcoholism before rebuilding his life with the help of Pace Flood, an actress (“Peyton Place,” “Cotton Comes to Harlem”) who broke down barriers for black women in Hollywood. The couple dated in the ’60s and married in 1986. Flood died of throat cancer in 1997. He was 59.

The significance of his contributions is not lost on today’s players. Pitcher Gerrit Cole mentioned Flood when he signed his $324 million contract with the New York Yankees in December.

“It’s so important that players know the other sacrifices that players made in order to keep the integrity of the game where it is,” Cole said.

NATIONALS: Reliever Sean Doolittle moves a glove out of the way as he reaches into a shelf in his spring training locker and grabs a different one, which he then hands over with a simple, if unusual, instruction:

“Smell it.”

So, of course, you do – getting a sweet whiff of lavender, the sort you might get from a candle or bowl of potpourri. And now you know what Doolittle sniffed each time he jutted his right elbow toward home plate and tucked his glove under his chin to get his catcher’s signs during last season’s World Series.

At the suggestion of Washington’s director of mental conditioning, Mark Campbell, Doolittle put lavender oil on the leather laces around the webbing of his glove for the postseason. It helped the lefty relax on the mound after a rocky regular season, much the way the bullpen as a whole morphed from disaster to asset in 2019, a trend of improvement the club figures will continue in 2020.

“I was so nervous during the playoffs. I was just a big ball of stress. Lavender has a lot of calming and soothing to it,” Doolittle explained last week. “When I came set, I could smell it. It worked, man.”

In October, he produced two saves and three holds, a 1.74 ERA and a .167 opponents’ batting average as the Nationals went 8-1 in his appearances along the way to a championship.

Doolittle wound up with his most appearances (63) since 2013, a career-worst ERA of 4.05, a 6-5 record and six blown chances – twice as many as in 2017 and 2018 combined – to go with a career-high 29 saves.

He was part of unit that had an ERA above 5.50, but got help at the trade deadline. Acquiring Daniel Hudson from Toronto, in particular, was key, even if additions Roenis Elias and Hunter Strickland dealt with injuries.

INDIANS:  Reliever Emmanuel Clase could be sidelined three months with a strained back muscle, another blow to Cleveland’s pitching staff.

The hard-throwing Clase, the centerpiece of an offseason trade that sent two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to Texas, experienced upper arm discomfort following a bullpen session last week. He continued to have issues this week and the Indians had him undergo imaging tests Wednesday.

An MRI confirmed a moderate strain of the teres major muscle in his upper back. The team said he will be re-evaluated weekly, but the 21-year-old is expected to miss 8-to-12 weeks of game activity.

DIAMONDBACKS: Madison Bumgarner, the team’s marquee free-agent acquisition of the offseason, was solid in his first spring training outing on Thursday. He retired his first five batters, including four on strikeouts, before giving up a solo homer to Derek Dietrich. He allowed one run over two innings.

Bumgarner signed an $85 million, five-year deal in the offseason as the D-backs tried to close the gap in the NL West with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have won seven straight division titles. He spent his first 11 seasons with the San Francisco Giants, helping the franchise win three World Series titles.

CUBS: Reliever Brad Wieck had surgery this week for an abnormal heart flutter and is out indefinitely. 

The team said an irregular heartbeat was discovered during the 28-year-old left-hander’s spring training physical. Subsequent tests showed an intermittent atrial flutter.

Wieck underwent a cardiac ablation at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago on Monday and returned to Arizona two days later.

The Cubs said Wieck will “rest and rehab for the next week” and be re-evaluated then to determine when he can resume throwing.

UMPIRES: Kerwin Danley became the first African American umpire crew chief in Major League Baseball when a series of promotions, additions and retirements were announced.

The moves included Alfonso Marquez being elevated to the first Hispanic crew chief in MLB history born outside the United States and second overall.
Crew chiefs Jeff Kellogg, Dana DeMuth, Gary Cederstrom and Mike Everitt have retired. Kellogg and Everitt will move into jobs as MLB umpire supervisors.
Dan Iassogna and Jim Reynolds were promoted to crew chiefs.

Ramon De Jesus, who worked his first big league game in 2016 as a minor league fill-in, moved up and became the first Dominican-born umpire on the MLB staff. Also getting full-time jobs in the majors were Ryan Blakney, Chris Segal and Jansen Visconti.

Nic Lentz also joined the MLB umpire roster, replacing the late Eric Cooper.

YANKEES: Right-hander Luis Severino had Tommy John surgery on Thursday.

The procedure was performed by Dr. David Altchek at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. The team said in a statement that the surgery went as planned. Also, an existing bone chip in his right elbow was removed during the procedure.

The two-time All-Star will miss all of 2020 after being sidelined for nearly all of 2019.

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