From WBUR’s “Only A Game” on January 19, 2015, with SABR member Nathaniel Grow:
One hundred years ago this coming Tuesday, in a federal courthouse in Chicago, Major League Baseball defended itself against the first of many antitrust lawsuits. The claims were brought by the upstart Federal League, and the case was heard by Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the future commissioner of Major League Baseball.
Nathaniel Grow, assistant professor of legal studies at the University of Georgia and the author of “Baseball on Trial: The Origin of Baseball’s Anti-Trust Exemption,” joined Bill Littlefield to explain the case.
BL: The Federal League’s complaint against Major League Baseball was 92 pages long, I’m hoping you can sum up the important issues in 30 seconds or less…
NG: I’ll try. Basically the argument was the Federal League had been launching this challenge, trying to create a third Major League alongside the American and National Leagues, and they argued that the American League and National Leagues had effectively monopolized the industry — that the leagues had tied up basically all 10,000-plus professional-caliber players in the country, making it impossible for any new league to come into existence and challenge their supremacy.
And so they said that under the federal antitrust laws, the Sherman Act, that this was an illegal monopoly, and that this is something the court should address by striking down the baseball monopoly and giving leagues like the Federal League enough of a chance to compete.
Read the full article or listen to the interview here: http://onlyagame.wbur.org/2015/01/17/mlb-antitrust-status-history
- View case files from the 1915 Federal League antitrust lawsuit against Organized Baseball, exclusive at SABR.org
- Read “The Origin of the Baseball Antitrust Exemption” by Justice Samuel Alito, in the Fall 2009 Baseball Research Journal
Originally published: January 19, 2015. Last Updated: January 19, 2015.