Federal Baseball League court documents now available at SABR.org

The SABR Business of Baseball Committee has just made available scanned documents from the original filing of the Federal Baseball lawsuit against organized baseball.

The 1915 Federal League case preceded the eventual 1922 Supreme Court decision on baseball's antitrust exemption, as well as Toolson v. New York Yankees, Flood v. Kuhn, and other cases. These documents remain timely with the current lawsuit filed by the City of San Jose against Major League Baseball and with Daniel R. Levitt earning the latest Larry Ritter Award for The Battle That Forged Modern Baseball: The Federal League Challenge and Its Legacy.

You can now view these files exclusively at SABR.org by clicking on the link below:


In 1915, a complaint was filed in United States District Court, the Northern District of Illinois. The complaint was lodged by The Federal League of Professional Base Ball Clubs v. The National League of Professional Base-Ball Clubs, The American League of Professional Base-Ball Clubs, August Herrmann, Bancroft B. Johnson, John K. Tener, et al. Judge Kenesaw Landis — later the commissioner — presided over the case.

The scanned documents represent nearly 2,000 pages of affidavits, answers, petitions and more. Many of the documents were scanned using optical character recognition for simplified searching and a finding aid is available:

"This is absolutely remarkable content," said Steve Weingarden, co-chair of SABR's Business of Baseball Committee. "The information weaves history with the fabric of a compelling larger story and a series of fascinating smaller stories. The documents are rich with facts and trivia.

"I am so very proud of the work and professionalism of Tom Pardo, Kyle McCafferty, Eve Mangurten, and William Holderfield and also for the output they produced. I feel lucky to have been part of such a great project."

The number of research opportunities from these documents is nearly endless.

"Providing baseball researchers with access to the original documents filed in the Federal League litigation will undoubtedly lead to a fuller, richer, more nuanced understanding of both that litigation specifically and baseball history overall," said SABR member and author Mitchell Nathanson, whose article on baseball's antitrust exemption won a 2013 McFarland-SABR Baseball Research Award

"Now, baseball historians will at last have the ability to analyze these documents themselves and draw their own conclusions, rather than simply rely on the received wisdom regarding this crucial episode in baseball's development. There is simply no substitute for that. The digitization of these crucial documents is a landmark occasion in the field of baseball research."

This page was last updated July 19, 2013 at 1:43 pm MST.