As friend and former teammate Lou Brock so aptly outlined, 45 years after Curt Flood challenged the game of baseball and set the course towards free agency, he was finally welcomed home as he was officially inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame today.
“He absolutely understood,” stated Pace-Flood. “He said what he received from what he did was he could read the Los Angeles Times sports page and see his results all over the page. He could look at tv and as announcers would announce and so-and-so is going to be making blop-blop-blop or how they would calculate who makes the most money, how was the highest paid pitcher, who’s the highest paid this?”
Prior to his passing, Flood also noted “that the distance between what the owners make and what the players make in 1996 is wider than it was when I went to court regarding free agency, so everyone has benefited, owners included. So, he absolutely understood.”
Pace-Flood was an actress in the ’60s who worked her way up from appearances on Batman, Bewitched, Mod Squad, and more to a regular role on Peyton Place and The Young Lawyers–for which she won an Image Award in 1970. She also played Gale Sayers wife in the TV movie “Brian’s Song”. But it was one of her earliest appearances that caught the attention of Curt Flood.
“It was Willie Mays’ fault,” smiled Pace-Flood, who appeared on The Dating Game and wound up on a date with the baseball great. Turns out, Curt was watching at home and was struck by the actress.
“The next day he calls the station, ‘the girl on the show with Willie Mays, can I get her number?’ They said we can’t give you her number,” laughs Pace-Flood. The station suggested calling the Screen Actors Guild, which told him to call her agent. Eventually, Flood tracked down Judy’s agent which led to a phone call to her mother and then father, who was a big baseball fan.
“He continues to call and starts sending me baseball cards and magazines,” Pace-Flood continued. “He would call my dad and say, ‘Ed, I’m going to be on the so-and-so sports show at 6 o’clock, maybe you can get Judy to watch me and see what I look like.”
This went on for almost a year, before her father told her to stop being rude and go out with Flood. She agreed, but requested that since she didn’t know Curt well that they meet in public and asked that maybe a friend or two could join them.
“He calls me back in 20 minutes and said will Dodger Stadium do for people? I said, yeah, Dodger Stadium will work. He said, what about the World Series, he said there will be a whole lot of people. I said, World Series? Chaperone? He said I have my dad, my aunt, your mother and your father tickets. Will that work? I said, yeah that will work. That was our first date and we were together until he exiled himself from the United States.”
The couple later got back together in 1984 and were married until Flood’s passing in 1997.