Fifty Years Before His Time

Dick Kerr, "Should There Be Forced Arbitration of Salary Disputes?", Baseball Magazine, January 1926: "There ought to be some way of arbitrating disagreements like mine... Under the present scheme of management if an owner and a player simply won't agree on terms, there's nothing for the player to do but to get out. That's wrong, in my opinion. Wrong for both the player and owner, for both of them suffer. The owner suffers a substantial loss in property, for if the player is any good, he's worth quite a few thousand dollars to the owner merely as an investment." Kerr proposes a three-man Board of Arbitration, with one representative picked by the player, one by the owner, and an impartial arbiter. "They say that players on some clubs can get a good deal more money than on others. I don't think that ought to be so. If a man is a .300 hitting shortstop who's known to be a good fielder, he's worth a sum that could be approximated on any club. If the club he happens to be with isn't winning, that's not his fault."

Glimpses of the 1930s

Resolution formally adopted at the 1931 winter meetings, in the days before anticollusion provisions: "Resolved, that by reason of prevailing conditions and decreased attendance at our games, it becomes necessary that the general operating expenses, including the salary cost of ball players of clubs in both leagues be substantially reduced."

8/27/36 TSN: "Establishing what Branch Rickey, vice-president of the St. Louis Cardinals, has declared might become a `bad precedent,' the Cleveland Indians have announced that the club's share of the proceeds from an exhibition game with the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 21, the first day of the American Legion convention in Cleveland, will be divided among the players.

"Usually, exhibition games are considered part of a player's chores, although Dizzy Dean of the Cardinals has repeatedly voiced different sentiments, and the clubs take all the gate receipts. The players, being under contract for the season, are expected to take the extra games as a matter of course and do not share in the money end, because they are under contract to participate in all contests scheduled for them."

July 29, 1938: In a pregame radio interview, Yankees outfielder Jake Powell tells Bob Elson of WGN how he spends the offseason as a policeman in Dayton, Ohio: "I crack niggers on the head." Judge Landis suspends Powell for 10 days. The Sporting News editorializes, "Without thought, he made some contempo-raneous remarks considered derogatory by the colored race. . . . Powell was on the spot and was the victim of circumstances, which should not be held against him by the fans. Other players, in other instances, might offend other groups. The remedy, as we see it, is to relieve the players of such assignments" by banning pre-game on-field interviews.

Chicago Daily News columnist Westbrook Pegler isn't satisfied, accusing Landis of trying to "placate the colored clientele of a business which trades under the name of the national game, but has always treated the Negroes as Adolf Hitler treats the Jews." On August 20, Powell visits the New York office of the Chicago Defender to apologize: "Honest, you can believe me when I say I regret the slur as I had no intention to hurt anyone, or their feelings. Members of the Negro race have helped to earn my bread and butter and no one knows that better than I do. . . . I have two members of your race taking care of my home while myself and wife are away and I think they are two of the finest people in the world. I do hundreds of favors for them daily." (The reactions of the black and white press to Powell's statements are contrasted in Richard Crepeau, "The Jake Powell Incident and the Press: A Study in Black and White," Baseball History 1:2 (Summer 1986), p. 32.)

Compiled by Doug Pappas. All rights reserved.
Originally published in the Fall 1996 issue of Outside the Lines, the SABR Business of Baseball Committee newsletter.

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