1978 Winter Meetings: Figuring Out Free Agency

This article was written by Daniel R. Levitt

This article was published in Baseball’s Business: The Winter Meetings: 1958-2016

Baseball's Business: The Winter Meetings: 1958-2016By the fall of 1978 modern free agency was entering its third year, and teams were beginning to come to terms with both its existence and its potential, though ownership still hoped to roll it back dramatically. Front offices were figuring out the mechanics of pursuing free agents, how to fit them into their payroll structure, and how to weigh their impact on the future demands of existing players.

Yet most teams still had not fully grasped how to manage and build their rosters in this new era in which players were free to leave after six years or at the end of their existing contracts. As baseball’s general managers and their owners struggled to make sense of the new player procurement regime, significant trades, often a staple of the winter meetings, were few and far between. Moreover, with both the collective-bargaining agreement and the national television contract not expiring until after the 1979 season, the 1978 winter meetings were relatively quiet on the player-relations and business fronts as well.

Commissioner Bowie Kuhn echoed the sentiments of his owners and focused his opening remarks at these Orlando-based meetings on the dangers of the existing free-agent system to both the financial health of the industry and its competitive balance. “The unfortunate fact,” according to Kuhn, “is that these signings fulfill the forecast by many of us that there would be a tendency for the best teams to get the best players. There is also a clear tendency for some of the star players to seek only contending teams. Five clubs have signed 53 percent of the free agents (those who were in the major leagues the previous year and were drafted by at least two clubs). All seven signees this autumn who were drafted by two or more clubs have gone with repeater clubs.”1

Regarding the overall increase in payroll, Kuhn complained: “Before the reentry draft the approximate average player compensation was $50,000. Today it is approximately $100,000. Some leveling off is vital.” As a solution, Kuhn felt, additional compensation to the team losing a free agent from the signing team was necessary. “Amateur draft choices provided under the collective-bargaining agreement as compensation are simply not adequate,” he lectured.

Kuhn, however, understood the difficulty of radically changing the new system. “(MLBPA head Marvin Miller) said that it would be suicidal for the owners to start a confrontation on the compensation issue,” he said. “That attitude certainly doesn’t give much promise of good-faith bargaining on the compensation issue.”

Nevertheless, Kuhn also toasted the health of his industry under his leadership. Baseball in 1978 had set another attendance record, breaking the 40 million mark by drawing 40.6 million fans, an increase of 1.9 million over 1977, itself a record year. “A Lou Harris poll shows sports popularity is unmistakably in baseball’s favor,” Kuhn said. “Today whenever we can get a reading on 1979 season-ticket sales, the readings indicate record levels. Measurements indicate over 70 percent of Americans are sports fans. That means nearly 160 million in the United States alone will be coming our way.”

Miller contested Kuhn’s economic assertions. In his own news conference (separate from the winter meetings), he produced seven charts to rebut the commissioner. Most pointedly, Miller stressed that in 1978 baseball revenue totaled $278.7 million and the players’ portion of that revenue came to only $76.8 million, or 27.6 percent. “What happened to the other $200 million?” Miller challenged.2

Business and Administrative

With both the network TV contract and the collective-bargaining agreement with the players set to expire after the 1979 season, the owners had begun considering options to increase revenues and interest. Accordingly, earlier in the year they had created a committee to explore realignment, with an understanding that the emphasis would be on divisional realignment (not interleague play) as a way to promote additional pennant-race excitement and playoff games. Further driving this initiative was the hiring of Tom Villante by the commissioner’s office as the executive director of marketing and broadcasting. The man responsible for the phrase “Baseball Fever — Catch It,” would now be in charge of increasing broadcast and other revenue sources.3 The commissioner believed realignment represented “the most significant subject to hit the major league agenda in years.”4 And he expanded: “The main motivation for the change is this: What are you going to do with September? Your hardest selling job in baseball is September, when many teams fall from contention.”5

At the winter meetings the realignment committee, led by former general managers Joe L. Brown and Frank Cashen, presented their proposal, which entailed expanding from two divisions to three in each league and adding a wild card, increasing the league playoffs from one round to two. After lengthy discussions, seven clubs remained opposed to the scheme, which required unanimous approval. Five were in the National League, including powerful owner Peter O’Malley of the Dodgers. Kuhn put a brave face on the outcome, which unofficially called for more study, but the plan was clearly shelved for the foreseeable future.6

The owners also discussed the fallout and potential subsequent actions from the loss to Melissa Ludtke in court. A female sportswriter for Sports Illustrated, Ludtke had been barred from the New York Yankees locker room during the 1977 World Series because of her gender. Ludtke sued baseball for the right to equal access and won her case at the federal district court level in September 1978. Baseball’s executive council directed the league presidents to poll their respective clubs to learn what stance each individual franchise would adopt if “left to its own devices in this matter.”7 In the end the clubs chose not to push an appeal or further pursue the matter.

Under the National Association agenda, the major-league owners adopted several amendments put forward by the minor leagues, including an increase in the minimum monthly salary in Triple A and Double A to $600 per month, an increase in the maximum monthly salary in the other classifications to $600 per month, and an increase in minor-league meal money. In other business, the owners passed a resolution that no club could opt out of participating in the Major League Promotional Corporation, the arm responsible for coordinating television production, licensing, publishing, and promotional opportunities.8 In a couple of additional actions, the National Association agreed to bump up the meal money for minor leaguers, and the Major League Executive Committee voted to increase its appropriation for amateur baseball to $402,500.9

In the wake of the brief umpire walkout in August, major-league umpires Harry Wendelstedt and Bill Kinnamon met with the major leagues’ executive committee on umpires to make the case for better pay and opportunities for minor-league umpires. Wendelstedt, who ran an umpiring school, explained, “It takes five years to develop an umpire, and we are losing many of our finest because they cannot afford to support themselves and their families on what they earn in the minors.”10 Separately, the owners decided that umpiring should be standardized between the two leagues by 1980: The umpires would use the same chest protectors, wear the same uniforms, and officiate from the same places on the field.11

At their confab during the winter meetings, the baseball writers responded to a backlash over the Hall of Fame ballot. Historically, a BBWAA screening committee established which newly eligible players would be added to the ballot. Recently, however, there had been criticism when 209-game winner Milt Pappas and slugger Frank Howard and his 384 home runs were left off — a situation that was exacerbated when screening committee member Charlie Feeney said, “(Our) purpose is to keep the Humpy Dumpties off the ballot, and, when compared to real Hall of  Famers, guys like Pappas are Humpty Dumpties.”12 In response, the writers voted to abolish the screening committee and put everyone who had played the requisite 10 years on the ballot. For the forthcoming election, that meant 22 additional players would be included. To keep the ballot manageable, however, the writers also ruled that any player who did not receive at least 10 percent of the vote would be permanently removed.13

The baseball writers also debated a proposal to add a “team error” to the scoring rules. Its proponents felt the team-error concept would better address situations in which an error should clearly be charged to the fielding team even though it was difficult to single out one particular defender, such as when several fielders circle a popup and let it drop between them, or when a strong, accurate throw by an outfielder hits a baserunner, leading to extra bases. In the end, the writers voted to table the proposal, effectively killing it.14

Baseball’s rules committee tampered with the rain-shortened game rules to address game-changing scores during the visitors’ half-inning. In those games in which the visiting team tied the game or took the lead during the top half of the inning and the game was subsequently halted before the home team took the lead or tied the game, the game would now become a suspended game instead of being ended based on the score at end of the previous inning. Such a rule change, however, required the approval of the players union, which was not forthcoming (they neither objected nor approved), so this rule would not take effect until 1980.15 Other changes to the rulebook included the introduction of the Game Winning RBI — defined as the RBI that gives a team a lead that it never relinquishes — as an official statistic, and the inclusion of statistics from “game 163,” used to break divisional ties, in the regular-season statistics.16

The National Association named a new president, Johnny Johnson, a longtime baseball executive who started as a secretary to Yankees GM George Weiss in 1947 and worked for a time in the commissioner’s office. At their annual banquet on December 5, an overflow crowd of 1,400 paid tribute to outgoing President Bobby Bragan. At the event The Sporting News presented its Minor League Executive of the Year awards: Willie Sanchez for Triple A, Larry Schmittou for Double A, and Dave Hersh for Single A.17

On the ownership front, the National League approved the sale of 50 percent of the Houston Astros from GE Credit to Ford Motor Credit, giving Ford Motor Credit full ownership of the team. The two financial institutions had jointly taken possession of the franchise from owner Judge Roy Hofheinz in 1976 as part of a restructuring to help keep Hofheinz out of bankruptcy.18

Two other franchises reportedly on the block saw little negotiating movement during the winter meetings. Oilman Marvin Davis had been working to buy the A’s and move them to Denver, but several issues, most notably the nine years remaining on the Oakland Coliseum lease, lingered as sticking points. A prospective deal with a local purchaser — furniture magnate Sam Bercovich and his son Ed and backed by Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis (no relation) — sputtered over their demand for lease concessions from the Coliseum and an unwillingness (or inability) to prove their financial wherewithal.19 In Baltimore, owner Jerry Hoffberger had been looking to sell for several years, reportedly at a price of at least $12 million. In early December he was in negotiations with former US Treasury Secretary William Simon, talks that eventually fell through.20

Player Movement Overview

In 1978 owners and general managers were just beginning to adjust to the impact of free agency on the trading market. At the winter meeting meetings only 13 teams consummated trades involving only 31 players — the fewest in at least the last seven years and including no blockbusters.21



No. Transactions

Players Involved




















“Your key players,’ summarized Milwaukee general manager Harry Dalton, “are now under long-term contracts and can’t be traded easily. Your younger players are not so well-known to other teams, and they’re now more important to you, anyway, because they can’t leave yet. And your stars who are available in trades are getting paid so much that you can’t move them so freely. For all these reasons, the talent is finally getting locked in. Also more players are entering the auction market, so the clubs are put into a position of reacting. They either look for talent in the free-agent market, or they don’t get much. You do it, or you die. The old-fashioned system of simply trading players is being crowded out.”22

Mets manager Joe Torre added, “You’re no longer going to take two players of equal ability and make a trade. Not if one of them has four years left on his contract and the other has only one year.”23 His general manager, Joe McDonald, agreed: “In this day and age of the agent, you don’t just talk to the player. You find out his seniority status, veto rights, his 5-and-10 situation, whether he’s got a no-trade clause, and his salary. I was talking to one general manager about a possible trade, and it suddenly got so complex that he suddenly just started waving his arms in the air.”24

Indians President Gabe Paul discussed the new environment: “Once all you had to be concerned with were ability and longevity. Now you have to worry about length of contract, special covenants. We used to have one-page contracts, now they’re seven or eight.”25 Overall, Paul summarized, “You used to be able to horse-trade. You’d have a roster of 25 players, and all 25 were available to be traded. … Today? Maybe you could trade half the 25 on your roster. The rest are frozen by legal restrictions, veto rights, no-trade clauses or just high salaries that few teams can handle.”26

The general managers did not get much relief to their dealmaking woes in the Rule 5 draft, which produced little of note. Several teams coveted right fielder Bobby Brown, with the Mets grabbing him with the first pick. The only other draftees to reach 1,000 major-league plate appearances were outfielders Lynn Jones and Max Venable. Oddly, among the seven players drafted, none were pitchers.

Free Agency

Much of the suspense of the winter meetings centered on the pursuit of free agent Pete Rose, arguably the most celebrated name to hit the market since the introduction of free agency. After returning from a monthlong tour of Japan in late November, Rose began a whirlwind tour of his suitors, saying he “wanted everything finished by the winter meetings.”27 He met with Braves owner Ted Turner in Atlanta, Royals owner Ewing Kauffman in Kansas City, Cardinals owner Gussie Busch in his hospital room — who reportedly offered $500,000 per year plus a beer distributorship — and Pittsburgh owners John and Dan Galbreath in both Columbus, Ohio, and Lexington, Kentucky, where they showcased their thoroughbred horses for Rose.28

Rose, though, preferred Philadelphia and on Tuesday during the meetings, Phillies owner Ruly Carpenter made the announcement at an overflowing news conference of 250 reporters. Rose signed for $3,225,000 over four years, the largest contract in professional sports up to that time, just above the $800,000 earned by Denver Nuggets star David Thompson. Carpenter employed a little creativity to meet Rose’s asking price by inducing television station WPHL, which carried the team’s games, to guarantee $600,000 per year of the defined advertising revenues it shared with the Phillies. In effect, WPHL gambled that the impact of Rose would increase station revenues well beyond the breakpoint where they would have to split advertising revenue with the Phillies.29

Rose also had several friends on the Phillies, believed the team was close to a pennant, and that his leadership could provide the final impetus to a championship: “They were my first choice all along. They’re a great club and I have a lot of friends on it. I’ve said all along I preferred an offensive team and a contending team.”30 Later he added, “The Phillies need an everyday player with experience. They need leadership. They’re a lot like the Reds and Dodgers but they haven’t been able to get over the hump. I think I can contribute the little extra they need. If they follow me they’ll win.”31

In other free-agent signings, the Giants re-signed third baseman Darrell Evans to a reported five-year, $1.435 million contract. The Angels landed Giants pitcher Jim Barr on a three-year contract for $860,000 plus a team option for a fourth year at $150,000. Upon his signing, California discussed turning him into a reliever, though he principally remained a starter in 1979.32


On the trade front, the big story of the winter meetings was the pursuit of Twins star Rod Carew. Owner Calvin Griffith knew he would not be able to re-sign Carew after the 1979 season — even if he could afford him, Carew had no interest in coming back after his owner’s racially charged remarks as part of a Lions Club speech in September.33 Complicating the process for Griffith, as a 10-year veteran, five with the same team, Carew had a right to veto any trade, and practically, no team would trade for him unless they could quickly ink him to a long-term contract. Carew provided Griffith with several teams to which he would agree to a trade, but Griffith cut a deal with the Giants, not a team on his list. The Giants agreed to surrender first baseman Mike Ivie, outfielder Jim Dwyer, and minor-league southpaw Phil Nastu, whereupon San Francisco owner Bob Lurie flew to Minneapolis to try to convince the perennial All-Star and seven-time batting champion  to accept the deal (the interleague trading deadline ended on December 8, at the end of the meetings). But Carew still spurned the move. The irony of the transformation in player-owner relations that saw an owner supplicantly flying to meet a player during the winter meetings was not lost on observers.34

To conclude the Carew saga, Griffith subsequently negotiated with the Angels, who agreed to a five-year, $4 million contract with Carew, but could not come to an agreement with Griffith on player compensation. The Twins owner reportedly wanted third baseman Carney Lansford and righty Chris Knapp, a price California judged too steep. Turning to his third serious negotiating partner, once again with a team not on Carew’s approved list, Griffith worked out a deal with the New York Yankees for first baseman Chris Chambliss, outfielder Juan Beniquez, minor-league shortstop Rex Hudler (the Yankees’ 1978 first pick in the June draft), minor-league left-hander Chris Welsh, and $250,000. (Commissioner Kuhn, however, ruled that no money could be included in the Carew trade spectacle.) Again Carew turned down the trade, angering Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who chastised Carew for not “understand[ing] the privilege of playing for the New York Yankees.”35 Finally, in early February Griffith agreed to a deal with the Angels for center fielder Ken Landreaux, right-hander Paul Hartzell, minor-league lefty Brad Havens, and minor-league third baseman-outfielder Dave Engle.

Despite the various new handicaps presented by free agency, several teams consummated notable trades during the meetings. The Red Sox dealt free-spirited left-hander Bill Lee, who had fallen out with manager Don Zimmer, to the Expos for reserve infielder Stan Papi. The Pirates acquired reliever Enrique Romo, who would become a key piece of their 1979 world championship club, by sending several players, including pitcher Odell Jones and infielder Mario Mendoza, to Seattle, where general manager Lou Gorman was hoping to revamp his last-place squad. In another move, Gorman sent 1978 All-Star shortstop Craig Reynolds to Houston for highly touted young lefty Floyd Bannister. Interestingly, both players were heading back to their respective hometowns.

California’s Buzzie Bavasi was another active general manager. In addition to free agent Barr, Bavasi landed starting outfielder Dan Ford from the Twins in exchange for corner infielder Ron Jackson and DH Danny Goodwin. Texas owner Brad Corbett was also busy that fall revamping his team. He had made several deals prior to the winter meetings, and in Orlando he swapped third basemen with the Indians, sending Cleveland Toby Harrah in exchange for Buddy Bell.

Cleveland general manager Gabe Paul wanted Harrah because the team “was going for more speed and power. Harrah gives us some of each and has the versatility to play both third base and shortstop.”36 Paul also strengthened his bullpen by trading shortstop Alfredo Griffin (who would become the 1979 co-Rookie of the Year) and minor-league infielder Phil Lansford to Toronto for righty Victor Cruz. From Toronto’s perspective, Griffin brought additional speed and defense to their lineup.

The Mets reluctantly traded veteran lefty Jerry Koosman, who had threatened to retire, to his home-state Minnesota Twins. While the players the Mets initially received reflected the team’s lack of leverage, the later underappreciated addition of southpaw Jesse Orosco in February made the trade look much better in retrospect. In one little-remarked trade, Cleveland acquired the contract of outfielder Joe Charboneau from the Phillies (though he actually played with the Twins’ Class-A minor-league affiliate in 1978). Charboneau would become a celebrity in 1980 with his Rookie of the Year season and offbeat personality. (He quickly flamed out after his one memorable year.)

As with all trading marts, many anticipated, partially negotiated deals never came to fruition. The Yankees targeted California’s Dave Chalk as a backup infielder and either San Diego’s Bob Shirley or St. Louis’s Buddy Schultz as a lefty reliever but couldn’t land any.37 At the last minute Bavasi backed out of a deal that would have sent All-Star southpaw Frank Tanana to Cincinnati for outfielder Ken Griffey. He had also hoped to swap Tanana to the Brewers for first baseman Cecil Cooper.38 The Braves wanted a left-handed first baseman, but were unsuccessful in their pursuit of the Yankees’ Jim Spencer, the Cubs’ Larry Biittner, and the Reds’ Harry Spilman.39

In one of the more publicized back-and-forth negotiations, the Cubs and Phillies met roughly a dozen times during the fall, hoping to consummate a trade at the winter meetings. The Cubs wanted catcher Barry Foote and either outfielder Jerry Martin or Bake McBride; in exchange the Phillies would receive outfielders Bobby Murcer and Greg Gross, and catcher Dave Rader. Phillies general manager Paul Owens pushed to expand the swap to include Cubs second baseman Manny Trillo, and while a restructured deal appeared resolved by midnight on Thursday, in the end no trade could be worked out.40 “It has been the most frustrating week of my life,” complained Cubs general manager Bob Kennedy. “I’ve done more running with less results this week that in any week of my life.”41 Kennedy and Owens eventually worked out a swap in February, with Kennedy getting Foote, Martin, second baseman Ted Sizemore, and two others in exchange for Gross, Rader, and Trillo.

Orioles general manager Hank Peters, who also came up empty, was willing to discuss any player on his roster except Eddie Murray and Jim Palmer: “Of the 38 players on our roster, I mentioned 36 of them at one time or another during the winter meetings. Some of those 36 I really have no intention of trading, but sometimes you have to throw out a name in order to test another player’s availability.” Peters expanded on his trading approach in some detail: “There was one particular player we were interested in. I won’t tell you which one, but we had been told he was unavailable. So I asked the team he is with: ‘Suppose I was to offer you pitcher Mike Flanagan?’ When I got no response, that told me the player really wasn’t available. If I had gotten a reaction to Flanagan’s name, then that would have told me the player wasn’t untouchable, and that he could be had for the right offer. I had no intention of trading Flanagan (who won 19 games in 1978), but I would have pursued the trade by trying another approach.”42


Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, the one-time youthful pitching sensation of the Detroit Tigers, came to the winter meetings to be examined by a collection of shoulder specialists. In 1976 the 21-year-old Fidrych captured the nation with his stellar pitching (19-9 with a league-leading 2.34 ERA in 250 innings pitched) and quirky habits. But the right-hander developed arm trouble the next year and again struggled with tendinitis in 1978. To gain some insights into his hurler’s injuries, general manager Jim Campbell scheduled an examination with the Association of Professional Baseball Physicians, which was holding a symposium on shoulder injuries at the winter meetings.

Unfortunately for Fidrych and the Tigers, the news was disappointing. “He can’t pitch until he has built up the strength in his arm,” explained Dr. Harvey O’Phelan, Minnesota’s team physician and chairman of the association, adding, “It could take all of next year, and it could take longer.” Campbell and Fidrych were surprised and angered that these findings were released to the public, and Fidrych chafed at the idea of surrendering another full season. Fidrych had been aiming to be ready for the 1979 season, but after struggling through a few games in May, he was shut down for the year.43

At the managers’ cocktail party, Whitey Herzog of the Royals underscored the impermanence of their positions, a particularly timely observation as Sparky Anderson, a two-time World Series winner with the Reds, had recently been discharged. “Guys, here’s to us,” Herzog toasted, “And remember, if you open the season zero and nine, Sparky Anderson’s waiting. …”44

Facts From the Ludtke v. Kuhn Case (1978)

The following facts are pulled from the judge’s decision in the Ludtke v. Kuhn case.45

The court finds that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that plaintiffs are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The undisputed facts, as set forth by the plaintiffs in their 9(g) Statement, and not seriously controverted by defendants, are as follows:

  • On April 2, 1975, defendant Bowie Kuhn wrote the general managers of all major league baseball teams indicating that baseball should maintain a “unified stand” against the admission of women sportswriters to major league clubhouses.
  • During the 1977 World Series that policy was applied to plaintiff Melissa Ludtke, a sportswriter for Sports Illustrated, a weekly sports magazine published by plaintiff Time Incorporated.
  • After the 1977 World Series and after the commencement of this action, baseball reconfirmed its policy of excluding women reporters from the clubhouse.
  • Kuhn’s 1975 “unified stand” letter followed discussions within the Office of the Commissioner triggered by the decision of the National Hockey League All-Star teams to allow women reporters to conduct interviews in the locker rooms following the January 1975 National Hockey League All-Star Game.
  • In the course of those discussions, the Commissioner’s office questioned no baseball players concerning their opinions. Public relations directors of the major league teams were questioned and their opinions were varied.
  • On July 22, 1976, Robert Wirz, Director of Information of the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, wrote the Public Relations Directors of all Major League Baseball teams a reminder of baseball’s stance in opposition to allowing women reporters access to clubhouses and asking whether any women had requested such access.
  • On August 4, 1976, by letter, and shortly thereafter orally, the public relations director of defendant New York Yankees told Mr. Wirz that the Yankee players had concluded by an “overwhelming majority” that women could be allowed access to the clubhouse if they conducted themselves professionally.
  • Wirz then told the Yankee public relations director that action by one team to allow women reporters in the clubhouse would be a “definite threat to breaking down the overall barrier.”
  • Thereafter, Yankee management reversed the position of the players and said “no more” to women reporters in the Yankee clubhouse.
  • At the 1977 Baseball World Series games between the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers, Melissa Ludtke, an accredited reporter assigned by Sports Illustrated to cover the Series, was informed by the Commissioner’s office that she was not permitted, solely on the basis of her sex, to enter either team’s clubhouse after the Series games. The Commissioner’s office was aware that the Dodgers had already told Ludtke that she would have access to their clubhouse after the games. The Commissioner’s office was also aware that Ludtke had been given access to the manager’s office in the Yankees’ clubhouse during the American League playoff games.
  • The Commissioner’s office assigned Larry Shenk, the public relations director for the Philadelphia Phillies, to try to bring players out of the clubhouse to speak with Ludtke in the tunnel where she was made to stand. Shenk subsequently stated at the 1977 annual major league public relations meeting, chaired by the Commissioner’s Director of Information, that women reporters should be given postgame access to the clubhouse.
  • During the World Series, the Commissioner was also told by Henry Hecht, a baseball writer for the New York Post, that he and other “regular writers on the beat” thought that women reporters should be given equal access to teams’ clubhouses.
  • The Commissioner’s office spoke to no players concerning their views either during or after the World Series. After the commencement of this action, in January 1978 and again in March, the Commissioner reconfirmed his policy of excluding women reporters from baseball clubhouses.
  • Leland MacPhail, the President of the American League, has stated that he supports the Commissioner’s policy regarding women reporters.
  • In March 1978, at the Yankees’ spring training camp in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the Yankees’ manager gave one or more women journalists access to the Yankees’ locker room. Shortly thereafter the Yankees were instructed that they were to comply with the Commissioner’s policy, and the Yankees’ manager stated that women reporters would be excluded from the clubhouse once the regular season began.
  • The Annual Notice issued to all major league baseball teams by the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball has, since at least 1974, stated that access to clubhouses “should” be granted to accredited members of the media.
  • The World Series Manual issued by the Commissioner’s Office for the World Series provides that the clubhouses will be opened to the press within five minutes of the close of each game except after the final game when they will be opened immediately.
  • Although the Notices and Manual on their face grant access to accredited reporters without regard to their sex, the Commissioner’s Office takes the position that the Commissioner’s letter of April 2, 1975, adds a prohibition based upon sex to those Notices and Manual.
  • When confronted with situations in which individual players have refused to make themselves available to accredited reporters in clubhouses after major league baseball games, the Office of the Commissioner has urged the clubs of which those players are members to make such players available.
  • A significant portion of the news written about baseball emanates from news gathered by male reporters in the clubhouses of professional baseball teams.
  • The current president and a former president of the Baseball Writers Association of America indicated to Commissioner Kuhn and his Director of Information during the 1977 World Series that part of their “function” as professional baseball writers was to interview players in the clubhouse.
  • By definition, female reporters who are excluded from baseball clubhouses are not given the same access to the news and newsmakers as their male colleagues and competitors. This denial of equal access places female reporters at a severe competitive disadvantage because they miss stories witnessed or heard by male reporters inside the clubhouse, because they are unable to take advantage of the group questioning inside the clubhouse and because they are unable to talk to some players at all.
  • Professional hockey teams began to admit accredited female reporters to their locker rooms at the National Hockey League All Star Game in the winter of 1975.
  • Professional basketball teams began to admit accredited female reporters to their locker rooms in the spring of 1975.
  • As of today, of the 22 teams in the National Basketball Association, all but two or three admit accredited female reporters, including both New York area teams.
  • As of today, approximately 14 of the 18 teams in the National Hockey League, including the New York Rangers, give female reporters access to their locker rooms. The Office of the Commissioner was informed by an official of the National Hockey League in January 1978 that “about half” of the NHL teams allowed women reporters into their locker rooms.
  • Accredited female reporters have also been given access to the locker rooms of, for example, the New York Cosmos professional soccer team, the Minnesota Vikings professional football team and the University of San Francisco basketball team.
  • Women reporters who have been given access to locker rooms in other sports have found that a substantial portion of their material comes from the locker room and thus that access to the locker room is an important part of their job. They are able to compete fully with the male reporters on their beat because they are given equal access to the news and the newsmakers.
  • The New York Yankees’ clubhouse is divided into nine separate rooms, i. e., the central locker room area which contains cubicles for each player; the manager’s office; the players’ lounge; the trainer’s room; a doctor’s office; a sauna; a washroom which contains several individual sinks; a room containing the toilets; and the shower room which includes adjoining drying areas.
  • Male reporters have traditionally been granted access only to the central locker room area and the manager’s office.
  • The shower and toilet facilities are completely hidden from any view from the locker room. Swinging doors could easily be placed in the doorway which leads into the adjacent washroom.
  • The individual player cubicles in the central locker room area are approximately four feet wide and three feet deep and a player can comfortably dress in the cubicle. A curtain could be hung across the cubicle’s one open side.
  • Plaintiff Time Incorporated, is engaged in the communications business and publishes magazines including Sports Illustrated. A significant portion of Time’s business involves sports coverage.
  • After two years of experience as a junior baseball reporter for Sports Illustrated, plaintiff Ludtke was assigned by the magazine to attend and report on the 1977 World Series games.
  • Defendant Bowie Kuhn is the Commissioner of Baseball, who claims and has been given authority by the New York Yankees to make decisions about access to the clubhouses in Yankee Stadium, and by the American and National Leagues to make decisions about access to the clubhouses of other major league baseball teams.
  • Defendant MacPhail is the President of the American League of Professional Baseball Clubs.
  • Defendant New York Yankees Partnership is an Ohio Limited partnership and has an office in Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York. The Yankees are a member of the American League, and together with the American League are a party to the Major League Agreement, which created the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball.
  • The City acquired title to Yankee Stadium and the land surrounding it by exercise of its power of eminent domain upon a factual showing, approved by the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Bronx County, that purchase of Yankee Stadium was required for a “public use.”
  • The City was authorized to lease the Stadium to the Yankees, rather than to the highest bidder, by a New York State statute which found that:
    • … Yankee Stadium is important to the cultural, recreational and economic vitality of the state and city; … and that unless the stadium and its supporting facilities are substantially renovated and modernized it is likely that the New York Yankees, the New York Giants and other stadium users will transfer to a location outside the state and the city. … Chapter 986 of McKinney’s 1971 Session Laws of New York.
  • Pursuant to the State authorization, on August 8, 1972, the City and the New York Yankees entered into a 30-year lease which gives the Yankees extensive control over the entire stadium and exclusive control year-round over their clubhouse.
  • The entire stadium, including the clubhouses, was renovated at a cost to the City of approximately $50 million in time for use by the Yankees during the 1976 baseball season.
  • In both 1976 and 1977 the Yankees’ obligation for rent due the City was approximately $1 million, as required under a percentage formula whereby the amount paid to the City increases as attendance increases. Accordingly, the City has a stake in increasing attendance at games at Yankee Stadium, and in its lease recognizes the connection between publicity and increased attendance.
  • New York City police are on duty at the sporting events held in Yankee Stadium.
  • The Yankees are required under the lease to comply with all present and future federal, state and local laws affecting their operations at Yankee Stadium, and the City retains the right to enforce and assure compliance not only with local but also federal and state laws.



1 Stan Isle, “Elite Clubs Endangering Balance, Kuhn Warns,” The Sporting News, December 23, 1978: 35.

2 Jerome Holtzman, “More Than 40-Million Caught ‘Baseball Fever,’” Official Baseball Guide for 1979 (St. Louis: The Sporting News), 311.

3 1979 Official Baseball Guides, Ibid., 327.

4 Stan Isle, “Majors Warm Up to 3-Division Plan,” The Sporting News, December 23, 1978: 34.

5 Joseph Durso, “3-Division Proposal for Major Leagues Facing Obstacles,” New York Times, December 8, 1978: A25.

6 Isle, “Majors Warm Up to 3-Division Plan”; Holtzman, “More Than 40-Million Caught ‘Baseball Fever.’”

7 Executive Council Minutes from December 5 Meeting, April 4 1979, Bowie Kuhn Papers, Baseball Hall of Fame, S1-SS1-B2-F1.

8 Bowie Kuhn Papers, Baseball Hall of Fame, S3-SS2-B2-F3.

9 The Sporting News, December 23, 1978: 36.

10 Stan Isle, “Plea to Boost Minor Umps’ Pay,” The Sporting News, December 23, 1978: 35.

11 Isle, “Majors Warm Up to 3-Division Plan.”

12 Byron Rosen, “Baseball Would Score With Fewer ‘Humpty Dumpties’ as Screeners,” Washington Post, December 1, 1978: D7.

13 Jack Lang, “More Names Urged for Shrine Ballot,” The Sporting News, December 23, 1978: 35; Jack Lang, “Mays Top Name on Shrine Ballot,” The Sporting News, December 30, 1978: 36.

14 Stan Isle, “Team Error Plan Shelved,” The Sporting News, December 23, 1978: 34.

15 Stan Isle, “Sub Fielding Rule Change,” The Sporting News, December 22, 1979: 43.

16 Stan Isle, “Rule Changed on Certain Rain-Halted Games,” The Sporting News, December 23, 1978: 34. In 1978 baseball had its first-ever divisional playoff game, between the Yankees and the Red Sox. The ruling officially making “game 163” statistics part of the regular season statistics merely confirmed the previous practice in which the league playoff game(s) counted in the regular-season statistics.

17 Oscar Kahan, “Johnson Succeeds Bragan as Minors’ Boss,” The Sporting News, December 23, 1978: 37; “1,400 Salute Bragan at Banquet,” The Sporting News, December 23, 1978: 37.

18 Holtzman, “More Than 40-Million Caught ‘Baseball Fever.’”

19 Tom Weir, “Not a Buyer in Sight for the A’s in Oakland,” The Sporting News, December 23, 1978: 41.

20 Jim Henneman, “Former Treasury Sec in Line to Buy Orioles,” The Sporting News, December 23, 1978: 51; Holtzman, “More Than 40-Million Caught ‘Baseball Fever.’”

21 Press release, Office of the Commissioner, November 22, 1978, Bowie Kuhn Papers, Baseball Hall of Fame, S3-SS3-B3-F6; Stan Isle, “Trades, but No Blockbusters,” The Sporting News, December 23, 1978: 38.

22 Joseph Durso, “Red Tape Tying the Hands of Horse-Traders,” The Sporting News, December 30, 1978: 33.

23 Ibid.

24 Ibid.

25 Mike Littwin, “Winter Meetings’ Fireworks Fizzle,” Los Angeles Times, December 8, 1978: E7.

26 Durso, “Red Tape Tying the Hands of Horse-Traders.”

27 Mike Littwin, “Rose Decides He’d Rather Be in Philadelphia,” Los Angeles Times, December 6, 1978: F8.

28 Ibid; Dave Nightingale, “Phillies Have the Inside Track to Landing Rose,” Chicago Tribune, December 5, 1978: C1.

29 Holtzman, “More Than 40-Million Caught ‘Baseball Fever.’”

30 Joseph Durso, “Rose Signed by Phillies to $3.2 Million Pact,” New York Times, December 6, 1978: B11.

31 Littwin, “Rose Decides He’d Rather Be in Philadelphia.”

32 Holtzman, “More Than 40-Million Caught ‘Baseball Fever.’”

33 In what he thought were off-the-record comments, Griffith disparaged nearly everyone, but most incendiary were his racist comments regarding the reasons for moving the franchise to Minnesota.

34 The Rod Carew trade saga comes from multiple sources, including Nick Peters, “Carew May Yet Wind Up in a Giants’ Uniform,” The Sporting News, December 23, 1978: 48; Bob Fowler, “Carew Nixes Deal, But Twins Make Two Other Offers,” The Sporting News, December 23, 1978: 48; Murray Chass, “Carew Rejects Offer; Twins Get Koosman,” New York Times, December 9, 1978: 17; “Carew Elects to Veto Trade With the Giants,” Los Angeles Times, December 9, 1978: C1; “Giant Deal Hinges on Carew Nod,” Washington Post, December 8, 1978: E1.

35 Holtzman, “More Than 40-Million Caught ‘Baseball Fever.’”

36 Bob Sudyk, “Big Deal Huge Clinker in Cleveland,” The Sporting News, December 30, 1978: 42.

37 Phil Pepe, “Yanks’ Rosen Went ‘0 for 4’ at Meetings,” The Sporting News, December 23, 1978: 50.

38 Dick Miller, “Realist Tanana Lowers His 1979 Forecast to 15 Wins,” The Sporting News, December 30, 1978: 35.

39 Gary Caruso, “Braves See Whiz Kids Coming On With Rush,” The Sporting News, December 30, 1978: 48.

40 Joe Goddard, “Cubs Got the Foot From Phils — But No Foote,” The Sporting News, December 30, 1978: 47; Dave Nightingale, “Phillies Have the Key to Locked Trade Mart,” Chicago Tribune, December 7, 1978: C1; Dave Nightingale, “’Old Pal’ Could Dash Cub Plan For Phillie Deal,” Chicago Tribune, December 8, 1978: E1; Dave Nightingale, “Cubs’ Deal With Phillies Fails to Materialize,” Chicago Tribune, December 9, 1978: C1.

41 Dave Nightingale, “Baseball Confabs Are Becoming Ho-Hum Affairs,” Chicago Tribune, December 10, 1978: C2.

42 Jim Henneman, “Orioles Fail to Connect in Flyhawk Search,” The Sporting News, December 30, 1978: 45.

43 Jim Hawkins, “The Bird Will Be Grounded Until 1980,” The Sporting News, December 23, 1978: 51; Jim Hawkins, “The Bird Disputes Docs, Says He’ll Pitch in 1979,” The Sporting News, January 6, 1979: 36; Chicago Tribune, December 5, 1978; C4; “Fidrych Won’t Pitch in 1979,” Chicago Tribune, December 7, 1978: C3; Doug Wilson, The Bird: The Life and Legacy of Mark Fidrych (New York: Thomas Dunne, 2013), 185.

44 Bob Sudyk, “Torborg Finds Rock in Gabe’s Yule Message,” The Sporting News, January 6, 1979: 33.

45 Ludtke v. Kuhn, 461 F. Supp. 86 (S.D.N.Y. 1978), U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York – 461 F. Supp. 86 (S.D.N.Y. 1978), September 25, 1978. Retrieved from leagle.com/decision/1978547461FSupp86_1532.xml/LUDTKE%20v.%20KUHN on May 16, 2017.