Sunday, May 29, 2016

MLB's Anti-Trust Exemption Granted May 29, 1922

On This Day in Baseball History May 29, 1922: In the case Federal Baseball Club v. National League, 259 U.S. 200 (1922) aka Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore, Inc. v. National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, The United States Supreme Court rules that organized baseball is a sport and not a business, which exempts major league clubs from antitrust laws and interstate commerce rules.

The case came about due to the attempts to start a third Major League in the form of the Federal League which was in operation from 1913-1915. Many of the Federal League clubs were bought out by the National and American Leagues with the exception of the Baltimore franchise of the Federal League. The city of Baltimore had prior experience with both National and American leagues in the past.

The Baltimore Orioles played in the National League from 1882-1899 and although they were very successful, the team was contracted when the N.L. went from a 12-team league to an 8-team league in 1899. Baltimore once again became a Major League city in Ban Johnson's new American League that began operations in 1901 as direct competition to the National League. As part of the agreement between the two leagues after hostilities ended, the American League was allowed to have a team play in the New York City market. Tammany Hall politicians, Frank J. Farrell and William Stephen Devery purchased the rights to the New York A.L. market and the Baltimore A.L. team (also known as the Orioles) was moved to New York City becoming the Highlanders and later the Yankees. Aside from the Federal League team that played in Baltimore from 1913-1915, the city of Baltimore would not beome a Major League city again until the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore for the 1954 season, adopting the Orioles moniker for the team. Back to the Federal's lawsuit.

The Federal League brought an anti-trust lawsuit during the offseason of 1914-1915 due to the attempts of both the National and American leagues to derail the advances made by the Federals via a monopolization of Baseball by the two established leagues. After years of legal wrangling and maneuvers, the case was argued on April 19, 1922 and the decision by the court in favor of the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs on May 29, 1922.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes
The decision, given by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, was summarized on the Justia website as follows:
1. The business of providing public baseball games for profit between clubs of professional baseball players in a league and between clubs of rival leagues, although necessarily involving the constantly repeated traveling of the players from one state to another, provided for, controlled, and disciplined by the organizations employing them, is not interstate commerce. P. 259 U. S. 208.
2. Held that an action for triple damages under the Anti-Trust Acts could not be maintained by a baseball club against baseball leagues and their constituent clubs, joined with individuals, for an alleged conspiracy to monopolize the baseball business resulting injuriously to the plaintiff. P. 259 U. S. 209.
269 F. 681, 50 App.D.C. 165, affirmed.
Error to a judgment of the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia reversing a judgment for triple damages under the Anti-Trust Acts recovered by the
Page 259 U. S. 201
plaintiff in error in the Supreme Court of the District and directing that judgment be entered for the defendants.
Page 259 U. S. 207
The verdict has pretty much given Professional Baseball a free hand to do what it wanted though their power has slowly eroded due to the results stemming from the Flood v. Kuhn (407 U.S. 258) case. Though the decision in that case upheld MLB's anti-trust exemption by 5-3, it helped to usher in the era of free agency for the players.

Why did the U.S. Supreme Court and Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1922 decide in favor of the league, thereby giving them a free pass in terms of antitrust legislation? Since I am not an expert in law and legislation, I can't answer that. Maybe the Justices of the U.S.S.C. didn't realize how much of a money maker Baseball would become in the future? Perhaps they believed as many did at the time, even after the Black Sox scandal, in the purity and sanctity of Baseball being America's pastime and a sport and not being a money making endevour? Perhaps I can get more insight from a few friends of mine who are lawyers. I'll revisit this when I get more information.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:

Monday, May 23, 2016

Random Thoughts on an Article From May 24, 1991

Sometimes you come across an article in an old newspaper that catches your eye. The article It's a Thrill Every Minute With Sax at Third Base by Michael Martinez of the New York Times dated May 24, 1991 did just that with me. The New York Yankees of the early 1990′s were a horrible bunch and the 1991 Yankees were no exception finishing the season with a 71-91 record. A couple of things in this article stood out to me.

First is the list of players that played the hot corner for the Yankees after they traded Graig Nettles in 1984. Looking at the list to the right, in eight seasons, they had 29 different players at third base, including Dave Winfield. What the hell was Lou Piniella thinking putting Dave Winfield at third for two games in 1986. Even I, as a lifelong Yankees have no idea who Mike O'Berry, Jeff Moronko and Leo Hernandez are, let alone when they played third for the Yankees. But I digress.

The list shows how truly valuable a player the caliber of Graig Nettles was to the Yankees from the mid 1970′s to 1984. It also makes you wonder why Graig Nettles isn’t in the Hall of Fame. He was arguably the best defensive third baseman since Brooks Robinson and though he wasn’t the kind of hitter that Mike Schmidt and George Brett were, he wasn’t too shabby either. I guess people can point to his .248 batting average as to a reason why he wasn’t inducted to the Hall but I challenge anyone to point to a better third baseman than Nettles after Robinson, Schmidt and Brett. And if you say Buddy Bell, I’d take a one armed Nettles over Bell anyday.

The second thing that I noted was the subject of the article: Steve Sax. Even today, I wonder what the hell happened to Steve Sax. That guy was money with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Sax was the 1982 NL Rookie of the Year and played in 150 games or more in five out of his eight seasons with L.A. He was durable as well for the Yankees. In his three seasons with the Yankees, he only missed 15 games in three seasons. But for whatever reasons, he just seemed to stop being able to field the ball at second base.

While not a Gold Glove winner for the Dodgers, thanks to Ryan Sandberg who owned all the N.L. Gold Glove awards from 1983-1991, Sax was a solid second baseman. Solid enough that the Yankees let long time Yankee Willie Randolph leave via free agency. Ironically, Randolph would replace his replacement on the Yankees in Los Angeles. Offensively he was everything the Yankees expected to get, but Sax just seemed to forget how to play second base. I wouldn't quite say he had the "yips" but he had so many troubles that the Yankees brought up Pat Kelly from AAA in 1991 to play second and moved Sax to third.

Sax would be sent to the Chicago White Sox in the offseason for Domingo Jean, Melido Perez and Bob Wickman. He would never regain his stride having retired after the strike season of 1994.

I know New York is a tough place to play, especially while wearing the Yankees pinstripes. But here is an example of how one player could overcome the madness in the Bronx to arguably become a Hall of Famer and a player who showed tons of potential upon his arrival to the Bronx, just became a shell of the player we was.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading: