"The Curious Case of Curt Flood" could hardly be more timely.

The compelling documentary about the St. Louis Cardinals all-star centerfielder who made free agency possible for major league baseball players arrives Wednesday night on HBO in the middle of our summer of sports discontent with the NFL and NBC players and owners at each throats.

The film reminds that as much as we might like to lose ourselves in the games aspects of professional sports, the owners are still management, and the players are still labor, and with billions of dollars at stake it is never just about the games.

Curt Flood, a wildly over-achieving athlete, saw his career essentially ended in 1969 when at age 31 he challenged the rsearve clause that made major league baseball players the property of the owners of the teams with which they signed. If that sounds extreme, watch this splendid little documentary tonight and learn something about the tremendous courage of Flood and the avarice of the men who ran the game during that era.

I was attending college on a g baseball scholarship when Flood was at the peak of his fame, and he was one of my favorite players. But I never understood his actions until this film, which skillfully explains that while most historians have talked about Flood's case as an anti-trust action, he always saw it as a civil rights battle. And the filmmakers chronicle his deep roots in the civil rights struggle of the 1960s.

Here's a link to a podcast of a radio review I did of the HBO film, if you want to know more. the film premieres at 9 p.m. (ET) Wednesday with numerous replays throughout the month.