Fall 1999: Document of the Month
This month features a November 1916 National Commission memo to all major league club presidents, enclosing a new form of player's contract. The memo notes that as a result of the Federal League war, some players were able to procure contracts which did not contain a renewal clause, but makes clear that such contracts will no longer be approved:
"The Commission has reason to believe that some major league players, whose expired contracts did not contain a renewal clause, will decline to concede further claim of their respective clubs to their services on the ground that at the expiration of their contracts they become free agents.
. . .
"Club-owners were compelled to make extraordinary concessions to players in order to placate them and prevent them from deserting to Federal Clubs. Salaries were virtually dictated by players, long-term contracts became common and in some instances, the player could be retained only by eliminating the renewal clause from his contract. Base Ball must be brought back to its normal basis.
"With full realization that the reserve rule is not only a bulwark of professional base ball, and of inestimable benefit to the players, in assuring them as a class, regular employment at salaries adequate to their expertess, the Commission will hold in all such cases that the major league club, to which a player was under contract at the close of last season is entitled to retain him for 1917, if it so desires, and will not countenance the claim of any other club to such player that is not predicated on his purchase or release from his 1916 Club.
"The Commission will not approve or recognize any contract not in the new form and without change or modification of any of its provisions in any particular."
Compiled by Doug Pappas. All rights reserved.
Originally published in the Fall 1999 issue of Outside the Lines, the SABR Business of Baseball Committee newsletter.