Organized baseball’s peculiar entrepreneurial character was forged in the interests, institutions, and ideas of the Progressive Era. In the decades around the turn of the century organized baseball preserved its unique entrepreneurial character by exploiting the ideas of the progressives’ social gospel as well as the limited institutional capacities of the federal government. With the onset of the Depression, American regulatory politics was transformed. Instead of ameliorating the harmful effects of corporate combinations, the goal of New Deal regulatory policy in the wake of market collapse, was recovery. In these highly volatile economic conditions stability was valued over all else.
The Progressive Era regulatory regime, designed to preserve market conditions amidst the growth of corporate power, gave way to a new regulatory regime in the wake of the Depression. Marc Allen Eisner calls the regulatory regime of the New Deal Era the “associational” regime. This regime is rooted in a synthesis of New Nationalist progressivism and the experience of economic planning during World War I. While the Wilsonian, or New Freedom, strand of progressivism sought to recreate the fair market conditions of the preindustrial age, Theodore Roosevelt’s New Nationalist progressivism sought to use the institutions of the state to guide and manage the economy through cooperative arrangements between government and industry. The quasi-corporatist arrangements envisioned by Croly and Roosevelt would become a prominent feature of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal recovery program, and they would also provide philosophical justification for the continuation of baseball’s unregulated monopoly.