THE BUSINESS OF SPORT: PART I

Reading assignment:

"Before the Boss: The CBS Yankees"

"Flood Lost the Battle, But Won the Free Agent War"

"Flood Missed a Fly"

"Time Doesn't Relieve the Pain, or Change the Facts"

"Brooklyn to Los Angeles: Flatbush-Wacked"

Names/terms to know

Reserve Clause - long time rule in Major League Baseball which gave a team life long rights to a ballplayer, until traded by the team (where the player was owned entirely by the new club under the same rule), or the player was released, or the player voluntarily retired.  Eventually replaced by free-agency rules, thanks to the efforts of Marvin Miller, lawyer to MLBPA.
Curt Flood, Major League Baseball Players Association, Marvin Miller, Donald Fehr

Sample test questions

I. Curt Flood v. Bowie Kuhn (1972)

Curt Flood had a distinguished career playing center field for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1960s. He was traded after the 1969 season to the Philadelphia Phillies, but did not report because he felt that after his many years of service for the Cardinals, he was entitled to choose his place of employment. Baseball earned its anti-trust exemption in 1922 from the U.S. Supreme Court (Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore v. the National League). Thanks to baseball=s anti-trust exemption, the so-called Reserve Clause bound players to their teams for life.  If they were traded to another team, that new team now had exclusive ownership of the player. Players did not have the option to sit out of baseball for an extended period of time in order to win their freedom, nor did they have another baseball league to choose to join (the Federal League ceased operations in 1915, after only two seasons). Curt Flood sued Major League Baseball for his freedom to choose where to work, and his case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court (Commissioner Bowie Kuhn was the defendant). The Court ruled, in a 4-4 tie, against Flood and to uphold the reserve clause. Clearly Major League Baseball was interstate commerce, but the Court was willing to view the status quo (the anti-trust exemption) as an A acceptable aberration.@

Thanks to the negotiating efforts of Marvin Miller, attorney for the MLBPA, baseball players had earned the right to have their contract disputes settled by arbitration. In 1975, Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally challenged the same reserve clause that Flood had fought against. An arbiter ruled the reserve clause illegal, and made both Messersmith and McNally free agents. A Federal District Court agreed with the arbiter. The owners, though they had beaten the Flood suit, did not wish to risk any further litigation. Instead the owners negotiated with the MLBPA to allow free agency after six years of major league service. Salaries soared for the players. The current salary standard is Alex Rodriguez, who currently plays for the NY Yankees under a ten year contract paying an average $32 million per year. Not bad work, if you can find it! Under current union chief Donald Fehr, no professional athlete union is stronger than the MLBPA.  The average baseball player yearly salary in 1989 was $512, 800.  In 2009 that amount had risen to $3.25 million per year; the minimum salary in 2008 was $390,000 per year.

II. Franchise switches

Each of the major sports league, baseball, football, basketball, and hockey, have been plagued with franchises leaving town for better stadiums, climates and fans. Other cities have wooed franchises only to come away empty handed after teams were able to strong arm their present home town into building better stadiums, many of them built on taxpayer backs, or cajoled the city elders into giving them more favorable terms of lease.

Among the most duplicitous moves was that of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who moved to Los Angeles in 1958. When the Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee in 1953, they opened a whole new can of worms. The Braves had been second fiddle to the Red Sox for years and the team went to spring training that year not even knowing where they would be setting up shop for the season. Settled in Milwaukee, the Braves set new attendance records immediately. When Henry Aaron arrived on the field, the team found itself the World Series champions in 1957. The season after the Braves moved, the St Louis Browns, perennial American League doormat, moved to Baltimore and became the highly successful Orioles.

The movement of these two teams set the standard for franchise transfers. Other franchise moves followed the Braves. But in Brooklyn, New York, no team was more beloved than the Dodgers. In a city with three teams to root for, the Dodgers had carved out a spot for themselves among Brooklynites. No team received in any sport ever received the loyalty the Dodgers did from their long suffering fans, who went to small but cozy Ebbets Field hoping A Da Bums@ would no longer have to A Wait til next year!@ Thanks to the arrival of black stars such as Robinson, Campanella, and Newcombe, in a ten-year span from 1947-1956, the Dodgers appeared in the World Series six times, and finally brought home the world title in 1955.

But Brooklyn owner Walter O= Malley wanted a new stadium for his team to play in. There was not a more revered ballpark than Ebbets Field, but it was old and had limited seating. O= Malley wanted New York City to build him a new stadium, but the city refused. O= Malley began to look elsewhere and, regardless of the fan support and loyalty, he looked west towards Los Angeles for a franchise move. At that time the franchise located the furthest west was St Louis, but someday that surely would change. Los Angeles was ready with all the incentives necessary to get the Dodgers to move. A new stadium was promised and, in the meantime, the LA Coliseum, site of the 1932 Summer Olympics, was available. So much for the Dodger faithful, the team headed west in time for the 1958 season. To make matters worse, O= Malley convinced New York Giants owner Horace Stoneham to leave the city as well for a new stadium to be built in San Francisco. The Giants, world champs in 1954 left the decrepit Polo Grounds behind and took the finest player in baseball, Willie Mays, with them to the west coast. In order to placate the largest city in the country and its millions of unhappy baseball fans, MLB expanded from sixteen to twenty teams while adding the New York Mets franchise in time for the 1962 season.

In another similar duplicitous move, look no further than football= s Cleveland Browns. The Browns were one of the NFL= s most successful franchises. The team had joined the NFL in 1950, coming over from the dying All-America Conference. Led by quarterback Otto Graham, the team immediately won the NFL title. Later that decade, the team signed Jim Brown out of Syracuse University, and he became the most feared running back in the league. More championships followed. The team played in old Municipal Stadium, which it shared with the baseball Indians. Known as the A mistake by the lake@ the stadium sold out in excess of 80,000 fans, headed up by the A Dog Pound,@ every Sunday. But Browns owner Art Modell, who had long professed his love for Cleveland, was unhappy, especially when he found out that the city of Cleveland had promised a new stadium to the Indians, a franchise far less successful than the Browns. Modell turned his back on the most loyal fans in football for a move to Baltimore, which promised tax breaks and a generous lease in a brand new football only stadium. The NFL was so appalled by the move that it forced the Browns to leave its titles, colors and name in Cleveland, and so were born the Baltimore Ravens. The NFL promised Cleveland a new franchise, to be called the Browns, but only after the city promised to build the new team a football only stadium, something the city had refused to give Modell. Meanwhile, Baltimore was happy to have stolen a football team, having seen Indianapolis steal their beloved Colts in 1983. 

Don't Cry for Me, Argentina or Los Angeles! What goes around, comes around B Los Angeles enticed four major sports franchises to move to the west coast, baseball (Brooklyn Dodgers), football (Cleveland Rams), and basketball (Minneapolis Lakers and San Diego Clippers). But when the city lost the Rams in 1978 to Anaheim (in 1995 the Rams eventually found a better suitor and a brand new stadium in St Louis, a city which had lost the football Cardinals to Arizona in 1988), LA simply went out and enticed the Raiders to move from Oakland in 1982, and placed them in the same old LA Coliseum, built for the 1932 Olympics, where they had first put the Dodgers. When the Raiders failed to sell out their games and could not get a new stadium built, they returned to Oakland in 1995, leaving LA without an NFL franchise for more than a decade. But cry not for LA, the city does have the basketball Clippers. And the city ought not to cry either, having their own history of wooing multiple sports franchises from other worthy cities.

III. The high cost of staying competitive, or, how about that Camden Yards!

In the 1960s and early 1970s, a number of new baseball stadiums opened in places such as New York, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis. Most of them were modeled after Dodger Stadium, with seating for 50,000 plus, suburban locations (or away from downtown), good parking, freeways, with a full symmetrical look. In 1992, the Baltimore Orioles, having played since the 1950s at Memorial Stadium, moved in a new stadium located at downtown Camden Yards (cost $110 million). Instead of the Dodger model, Orioles Park was a throwback to baseball in the 1920s, downtown, smaller, cozier, asymmetrical, less seating (why have seating for 55,000 if only 35,000 come to the ball yard), with the 'old time' brick look. The Orioles played to packed houses, and other teams wanted to join the fun. Baseball owners began to threatened to move their franchises if they were not given a new stadium so they could financially A compete.@ In the last ten years, twenty new stadiums have opened for a league with thirty teams. But at least the city swapping has stopped. The only baseball team that has moved since 1971 is the Montreal Expos, who moved in 2005 to Washington, a town that twice lost franchises called the Senators (1961 and 1971). The Expos had no owner (MLB operated the team, drew maybe 7000 fans a game to Olympic Stadium B built for the 1976 Olympic Games for a cool $1 billion B yet to be paid off), and were playing about twenty home games a season in San Juan.

A. Baseball stadiums opened within last ten to fifteen years, following the success of Orioles Park at Camden Yards:

San Francisco Giants ($357 million for SBC Park, all privately financed B public financing was rejected four separate times by voters); Milwaukee Brewers ($400 million for Miller Park of which $310 million was publicly financed, plus shortly thereafter, an additional $22.5 million to repair the flawed roof); Pittsburgh Pirates ($262 million for PNC Park, part of a $803 million dollar package which included a new stadium for the Steelers, and paying off and razing Three Rivers Stadium which opened in 1970. Steelers and Pirates paid $85 million of total package, the remainder was covered by bonds, taxes and loans); Philadelphia Phillies; San Diego Padres; Cincinnati Reds; Detroit Tigers; Houston Astros; Chicago White Sox; Texas Rangers; Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies; Seattle Mariners; Atlanta Braves; Cleveland Indians.

B. Just opened:  Washington Nationals opened a  $581 million stadium with public financing in 2008; St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals new stadium will open in 2006 at a cost of $387 million, paid by the team, tax credits from the state of Missouri and a loan from St. Louis County.  Both the New York teams, the Mets and Yankees opened new stadiums in 2009.  Yankee Stadium cost a modest $1.5 billion, with top seats behind home plate available to the public at $1400 PER GAME (reduced by half when $2900 seats did not sell all that well!)

C. On the outside looking in: Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels, Oakland Athletics.

D. States which claimed to not be interested in public financing for a new stadium but gave way: Minnesota, new stadiums for both the Twins and the Vikings (Metrodome opened in 1982), and Florida, new stadium for the Marlins, with a retractable roof.

E. Teams probably not entitled to a complaint: Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, Kansas City Royals

F. Cities ready to entice a MLB team to move: Las Vegas, Charlotte, Portland, New Orleans, San Juan, Mexico City.

G. Suitors left at altar: Northern Virginia B lost Expos to D.C.