Spring-Summer 1995: Total Baseball - TOO "Official"?

If you want my conclusions, don't read page 606 of the new fourth edition of Total Baseball. Although my name is listed as reviser of the "Baseball and the Law" essay, several false and misleading statements which I did not write or authorize were added to the article before publication. I use the passive voice not to shield the guilty, but because the editors have refused to tell me why these changes were made, and by whom.

Specifically, someone tampered with my text to call the Players' Association "a union in name only"; to imply that the "single entity" antitrust defense for sports leagues remains viable even though it's been explicitly rejected by three courts of appeals and implicitly rejected by the Supreme Court; and to dismiss the prospect of the MLBPA decertifying to prevent the owners from imposing a salary cap -- the strategy successfully adopted by NFL players -- as "an implausible scenario." Each of these changes reads suspiciously like propaganda Major League Baseball would issue...and lo and behold, the Acknowledgments to Total Baseball IV state: "Rich Levin, Director of Public Relations in the Commissioner's Office of Major League Baseball, played a key role in...providing editorial guidance for the essays on business and law."

I don't know if John Thorn and Michael Gershman, the editors of Total Baseball, allowed Mr. Levin to put words in my mouth. But why would an editor allow one party to an labor dispute to "provide editorial guidance" for the coverage of that dispute, then publish the result of this "guidance" without even notifying the author? If this was the price for Total Baseball's new designation as the "official encyclopedia," they paid too much.

Copyright © 1995 Doug Pappas. All rights reserved.
Originally published in the Spring 1995 issue of Outside the Lines, the SABR Business of Baseball Committee newsletter.

[Later developments: Several months later, John Thorn finally told me that the changes I found objectionable had been made by Gary Hailey, author of the original article, not by Rich Levin or anyone else at MLB. Mr. Hailey, whose name also appeared on the article, was allowed to review and revise my text, but Mr. Thorn refused to afford me the same courtesy.

I assumed the matter was closed -- but when "Baseball and the Law" appeared once again in the fifth edition of Total Baseball, Thorn (1) ran my text again, without asking my permission or paying me; (2) listed me as co-author without allowing me to see the new material; and (3) included in that new material several more statements with which I strongly disagreed.

This time Thorn and his publisher refused to answer my letters, though the essay was dropped from future editions after I warned that I'd sue if my name or text ever appeared in another edition of Total Baseball.

John Thorn never apologized for twice putting words in my mouth. What a contemptible human being.]

Copyright © 1995, 2001 Doug Pappas. All rights reserved.
Originally published in the Spring1995 issue of Outside the Lines, the SABR Business of Baseball Committee newsletter.

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