Baseball History: Unions and the 'Reserve Rule'

Topics: Major League Baseball, Seitz decision, Major League Baseball Players Association Pages: 2 (744 words) Published: March 18, 2013
The “Reserve Rule” had been in baseball since 1879, but had become more complicated and inconvenient for the player as time passed. The rule essentially stated that a player was still had a one year obligation to play for his team after the expiration of his contract. During that year he would play for free unless he renegotiated his contract or the management agreed to release him.

In 1887 John Montgomery Ward, a very talented player and lawyer, started the first organized union. Though the union only lasted five years, it got the ball rolling. The Players League was started. This was a league where the team was owned and run by the players, but unfortunately the Players League soon collapsed as did the unions. It wasn’t until 1947, just after World War II ended, when Robert Murphy started it up again. Murphy had one major victory for the player's which was getting them a per diem for their time during Spring Training. Before this players were expected to make it on their own. This meant they would put forward the cost of lodging, meals, travel, equipment upkeep etc. They would inherit all cost until they made the team. Even after they made the team they were forced into contracts that were paid bottom dollar for their talent and they wouldn't see a paycheck until two weeks into the season. If problems weren’t bad enough they still had to deal with the Reserve Clause in their contracts. The contracts didn’t have anything that would allow them to retire safely and if a player was hurt during the season then the ownership reserved the right to release him. In 1954 the players negotiated for a Player’s Pension Fund to which would come from proceeds of the All Star Game. Judge Robert Cannon was hired by the Commissioner’s office as a legal advisor and would tell the players to stop pushing. He believed they were well taken care of and that they should be grateful for what they have. Cannon would say, “make no public statements, make no demands”. He believed their...
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