This Day In Dodgers History: Jim Gilliam Wins Rookie Of The Year; Andy Messersmith Part Of MLB Free Agency Beginning

After putting together a stellar season for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Jim Gilliam was named the National League Rookie of the Year on this day in 1953.

For Gilliam, who would go on to spend his entire career with the Brooklyn/Los Angeles organization, his 1953 breakout season was highlighted by a .278 batting average, team-leading 125 runs scored, and an impressive league-leading 17 triples.

Gilliam was voted 1953 NL Rookie of the Year over St. Louis Cardinals standouts Harvey Haddix and Ray Jablonski.

Beginning his professional baseball career with the Baltimore Elite Giants of the Negro Leagues from 1946-1950, Gilliam proved to be a greatly impactful player throughout his Dodgers career.

A lifetime .266 hitter, he was apart of four Dodgers World Series teams and hit a career-best .300 during the 1956 pennant season.

An All-Star in 1956 and 1959, Gilliam’s legacy and impact on the organization were forever enshrined in 1978 as his iconic No. 19 was officially retired just two days after his passing prior to Game 1 of the World Series that year.

Dodgers part of MLB free agency being established

Also on this day in Dodgers history, baseball free agency and player contracts were officially altered as a landmark decision by arbitrator Peter Seitz in 1975.

He declared pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally the first true free agents in baseball history, ending the widely accepted “reserve clause.”

Challenging owners on the assumption that the reserve clause meant an automatic renewal of one-year contracts after not signing during their option contract year, Messersmith and McNally, pitchers for the Dodgers and Montreal Expos, respectively, fought the long-installed notion.

After an extensive legal battle, including the case itself reaching various levels of court after MLB appealed Seitz’s decision, the ruling was upheld and Messersmith and McNally were officially granted free agency on March 16, 1976.

While Messersmith signed with the Atlanta Braves almost one month after becoming a free agent, and McNally retired, their determination ultimately altered the rights that players have when it comes to their ability to negotiate contracts/signings.

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