Archive for the ‘Primary Sources’ Category

Ueberroth speaks to the media during a news conference in Chicago

Back in 1985, the drug scourge haunting Major League Baseball was not steroids. It wasn’t amphetamines or “greenies,” either, although their widespread prevalence has been asserted by former players and historical accounts.

The scourge, instead, was cocaine. Four Kansas City Royals (Willie Aikens, Willie Wilson, Vida Blue and Jerry Martin) were jailed for cocaine violations, and their supplier, a Kansas City citizen and “baseball nut” named Mark Liebl claimed, “It’s all over baseball.” For more on the story, we send it over to Jerry Springer of Channel 5 News. Jerry?

Thanks, Jerry.

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sportings news crop

The Winter Meetings in their current form are an exercise in madness. Throngs of reporters descend on some gigantic southern hotel or convention center and attempt to track their every move in hopes of breaking trades hours before an official team press release. It is an absurdity, especially when the point of the Winter Meetings in the first place was probably just to escape some cold weather and throw down some drinks in the process.

Now, we have this:

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MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Chicago White Sox

On January 8, 1963, the International League announced expansion, including a new team in Little Rock, Arkansas. There were concerns about placing a Triple-A club in Little Rock, where just six years prior Governor Orval Faubus had called in the Arkansas National Guard to forcibly prevent the integration of the city’s Central High School. Gabe Paul, president and general manager of the Cleveland Indians, had claimed “he would not vote extra travel funds for Cleveland’s Jacksonville farm club until Faubus assured him that Negro players would be given the same treatment as white players in Little Rock,” according to the Associated Press (via the St. Petersburg Times).

Without Paul’s vote — and those travel funds — the International League would have been unable to complete its necessary expansion in the wake of the collapse of the American Association. But just days after making his doubts known, Paul recanted. He said commissioner Ford C. Frick assured him “our Negro players will receive equal treatment in Little Rock,” and, “We have advised [Frick] that we no longer have objections to our Jacksonville farm club playing in Little Rock in 1963.” Frick had made “the proper assurances,” Paul said. Faubus, when pressed about integrated baseball coming to Little Rock, refused comment.

In April of 1963, the Arkansas Travelers opened International League play in Little Rock. The starting left fielder was Dick Allen, a rising prospect in the Philadelphia Phillies organization. At Class A Williamsport in 1962, as a 20-year-old, Allen hit .329/.409/.548 with 20 home runs in 132 games, and in spring training he led all Phillies — even the major leaguers — in home runs with nine. In 1960, the Phillies had given him a $70,000 bonus, then the largest signing bonus ever given to a black baseball player. He was a star in the making.

Some 7,000 fans attended the Travelers’ first game. Roughly 200 were black. Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus threw out the first pitch as white fans picketed the stadium with signs reading, “Don’t Negro-ize Baseball,” and “Nigger Go Home.”

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Major League Baseball Rule 8.04 states the following:

“When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call Ball. The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball.

The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.”

In his Baseball’s State of the Union column last week, Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci joined an ever-growing list of pundits and other baseball voices calling for various ways to speed up the game. Specfically, Verducci called for “baseball” to install a pitch clock for the purposes of actually enforcing Rule 8.04, which he calls “the most abused rule in the book.”

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“No, that wasn’t considered. We thought there’d always be only the one club in this vicinity and we’d be it. It would appear we weren’t far-sighted enough.”

That was San Francisco Giants club president Horace Stoneham, as quoted in the November 4, 1967 issue of The Sporting News, on the news that the Kansas City Athletics would be moving to Oakland and invading the Giants’ once-exclusive Bay Area territory. The move, spurred by volatile Athletics owner Charlie Finley, led to extreme reactions all around.

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Image courtesy of

“We have no established church, but base ball is an institution whose welfare our courts will jealously guard.”

– A law student in the Columbia Jurist, 1885.

Professional baseball was still very young in 1885, when our Columbia Law student all but declared baseball the religion of the law. The National Association played its first season in 1871. The National League, formed with teams from the defunct National Association, began play in 1876 and was less than a decade old. But our anonymous law student’s assessment appears to have some merit, as a look at a couple of major cases in the early 1900s suggests.

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No discussion of baseball history is complete without robust examination of Major League Baseball’s anti-trust exemption. As touched on a couple weeks ago in this series, the exemption is one of the oddest quirks in the sporting world, and one of the most critical in guiding baseball’s development to where we are today.

As legal historian Stuart Banner writes in the introduction to his book The Baseball Trust, “Scarcely anyone believes that baseball’s exemption makes any sense.” Regardless of sense, it was a powerful aid to major league baseball as it grew from a small collection of teams into the most powerful sporting entity in the United States for at least half a century.

But if it didn’t (and doesn’t) make any sense, how has it lasted for nearly a century? Quite simply, by the time anybody challenged it, the National and American leagues had a well-oiled influence machine, ready to bury any challenges in rhetoric and lobbyists.

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