Justice Sotomayor takes a swing at Curt Flood case

From Nina Totenberg at NPR on May 23, 2013, with mention of longtime SABR member Brad Snyder:

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s wicked, waggish sense of humor—and knowledge of baseball—were on full display Wednesday when she presided over a reenactment of Flood v. Kuhn, the 1972 case that unsuccessfully challenged baseball’s antitrust exemption.

The event, put on by the Supreme Court Historical Society, took place in the Court Chamber, and as Sotomayor took her place at the center of the bench, normally the Chief Justice’s chair, she remarked puckishly, “This is the first time I’ve sat here. It feels pretty good.”

For those who don’t remember, the case was brought by St. Louis Cardinals great Curt Flood, who challenged baseball’s reserve clause, the provision that allowed teams to virtually own players, set salaries, and conduct trades, with the players, for all practical purposes, never able to negotiate freely with other teams. That meant that at the time Flood brought his challenge in 1970, he was earning what was then considered a top salary of $90,000. This, for a player who had signed with the Cards at age 18, with no agent or lawyer, and who in six of the next 12 seasons batted .300 and won seven Gold Glove awards. So, when he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, a definitely lesser team at the time, he refused to go, and could not play for any team.

He wrote to the then baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, protesting that he was “not a piece of property to be bought and sold.” Kuhn denied his request for free agency—a concept unrecognized by baseball back then—and Flood sued, seeking to block the perpetual use of the reserve clause.

All of these facts, and more, were detailed on Wednesday night by University of Wisconsin law professor Brad Snyder, author of “A Well Paid Slave.”

Read the full article here: http://www.npr.org/2013/05/23/186314129/justice-sotomayor-takes-swing-at-famed-baseball-case

Related link: “A tall tale of The Brethren,” by Ross E. Davies (Fall 2009 Baseball Research Journal)

Originally published: May 23, 2013. Last Updated: May 23, 2013.