Most educated fans know that pitcher Andy Messersmith was the first free agent in baseball; after playing the 1975 season for the Dodgers without a contract, the righthander insisted that he was no longer bound by the reserve clause. Arbitrator Peter Seitz ruled in favor of Andy and declared him a free agent, he subsequently signed with the Braves, and the rest was history. But I'd wager that there aren't nearly as many fans who realize that Dave McNally was a part of that landmark case as well.
In December of 1974, Orioles GM Frank Cashen made one of his craftier trades, sending a still-effective McNally, young outfielder Rich Coggins, and minor league pitcher Bill Kirkpatrick to the Expos for pitcher Mike Torrez and outfielder Ken Singleton. McNally soon injured his arm, started out 3-6 with a 5.24 ERA, and effectively retired that June at age 32. But the players' union asked him to add his name to the Messersmith grievance and he complied. Sensing the danger a little too late, Montreal president John McHale offered the ex-Oriole a new contract with a $25,000 signing bonus and a guarantee of another $125,000 if he made the club in 1976. It was more than Dave had made at any point in his career, but he unselfishly rejected the team's transparent overture for the greater good of the other players, present and future. As a result, McNally too was declared a free agent. However, he did not come back to baseball.
Much like Dave McNally, I am free. I just wrapped up my last day at a job that I held for four years and four months. It paid the bills and I wasn't treated poorly, but there was no opportunity for advancement and it paid just well enough that I was often complacent. Despite intermittent worries that I would never improve myself, I finally did find a new job...but it won't start for two more weeks. In the meantime, I answer to no man. I'm going to soak that up.