Looking Back: 1898/1923/1948/1973

100 years ago: NL adopts the "Brush Resolution," which authorizes the suspension or permanent banishment of players for using "obscene, indecent or vulgar" language on the field. In the March 12, 1898 Sporting Life, Francis Richter describes the meeting which led to the Resolution: "It is a noteworthy fact that no evidence was produced from managers, magnates, players or spectators -- only umpires and ex-umpires had complaint to make. . . . The language they reported was shocking, but produced quite a contrary effect on the listeners, every volley being greeted by roars of laughter from the magnates, as well as journalists."

Despite the Resolution, on July 25 the umpires refuse to discipline Baltimore's Ducky Holmes for an anti-Semitic comment about Giants owner Andrew Freedman. Holmes, a former Giant, called to one of Freedman's friends, who had been heckling him, that "I was glad I didn't have to work for a Sheeny any more." Freedman pulls his team off the field, and the umpires forfeit the game to the Orioles. Without a hearing, the NL suspends Holmes for the rest of the season for what Sporting Life terms the "trifling offense" of "insulting the Hebrew race," but lifts the suspension within two weeks when the players threaten to unionize. The Brush Resolution is repealed after the season.

75 years ago: The 1923 Reach Guide reacts to Joseph Cannon's proposal to unionize major league players: "In the last analysis ball players unions are impractical, and therefore futile, for the simple reason that the players tenure of professional life is limited to 15 years or 20 years at most, wherefore ball playing is not a life work; and also are unnecessary because the income from playing is widely variable, everything depending on personal skill, and varying conditions which it is impossible to make uniform."

The May 23 New York Times quotes the BBWAA's protest against radio broadcasting of games in progress: "If this is permitted, it will kill circulation of afternoon papers, and in the end will result in curtailment of baseball publicity." The New York Giants promptly deny any intention to air their games: "On the face of it the story is improbable. If a play-by-play account of the games were sent out every afternoon, it would cut into our attendance, besides hurting the newspapers. We want the fans following the game from the grandstand, not from their homes."

50 years ago: With every major league club except Pittsburgh now telecasting, the May 19 Sporting News carries a front-page "Is TV Killing the Minors?" article. The initial problems involve Newark and Jersey City of the International League, where attendance has plummeted in the face of competition from televised Giants and Dodgers games. The majors soon find themselves fighting two battles: the minors demand that telecasts be limited to a 50-mile radius of a club's home city, while the Justice Department investigates whether the antitrust laws are violated by existing restrictions which forbid telecasts within 50 miles of any other major or minor league city.

25 years ago: Baseball's modern era begins: the AL adopts the designated hitter, and the new collective bargaining agreement introduces salary arbitration for players with two full, or three partial, seasons in the majors. The new CBA also increases the minimum salary to $15,000 and opens a crack in the reserve clause by allowing ten-year veterans who have been with their current team for at least five seasons to veto proposed trades. Ron Santo of the Cubs becomes the first "10-5" player to exercise this right when he rejects a proposed trade to the California Angels. Santo subsequently accepts a trade to the crosstown White Sox.

Copyright © 1998 Doug Pappas. All rights reserved.
Originally published in the Winter 1998 issue of Outside the Lines, the SABR Business of Baseball Committee newsletter.

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