Baseball and Collective Bargaining
In the recent history of professional sports, no other sport has suffered more labor strife than Major League Baseball. Since 1972, negotiations between baseball players and owners have resulted in strikes or lockouts. The 1994 player strike lasted for 232 days, the longest strike in the history of professional sports. This paper will examine the role labor unions and collective bargaining agreements have played in Major League Baseball. Also highlighted, will be the history of labor relations in the field of baseball, from John Montgomery Ward’s first attempt to form a players’ union in 1885 to the 32-day lockout during spring training in 1990. Furthermore, research will be shown regarding the far-reaching effects of the 1994 strike, and the new policies enacted during the 2002 collective bargaining agreement, and the effects these changes have had on Major League Baseball.
Baseball officially became a business in 1869 with the formation of the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first all-professional team. Team owner Richard Wright also revolutionized the game by charging for admissions and paying players a salary. Whereas previously, baseball was largely a recreational sport for wealthy patrons, players could now earn a living by playing the game (Layden 1995).
The establishment of professional baseball teams also ushered in the practice of revolving. In this early form of free agency, baseball players would routinely transfer from team to team. Depending on their performance during the season, players would negotiate yearly contracts between competing teams (Abrams 1998). After a few years of this practice, baseball team owners grew worried at the rising salary levels. To protect the league from bankruptcy, the National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs introduced a reserve clause in the players’ contracts. This reserve clause put an end to revolving by tying players to a certain team for the duration of their...