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Late Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1945-1972

By Dean A. Sullivan | Go to book overview

2
Controversies over Antitrust, Airwaves

One of Commissioner Chandler's primary reasons for reinstating players who had jumped to the Mexican League was to prevent baseball from becoming entangled in federal lawsuits that could threaten the sport's antitrust exemption. Chandler was successful, but he could not forestall future legal action against the reserve clause. In some cases threats to the exemption came from unexpected sources. Shortly after organized baseball passed Rule 1 (d), which was designed to regulate telecasts of major league contests as a means of protecting the territorial rights of minor league clubs, the Justice Department threatened a lawsuit based on its conclusion that the restrictions violated antitrust law. Again, major league officials backed down in order to protect their greater interests. The withdrawal of Rule 1 (d) on October 8, 1951—just five days after Bobby Thomson hit one of the most dramatic home runs in baseball history—was one of several factors that led to the near-collapse of the minor leagues in the 1950s and to the first of several investigations of organized baseball by Congress.

Although the game on the field was unaffected by these problems, the pressures were mounting. For the first time in a half-century a franchise was permitted to move to another city, as the Boston Braves shifted westward to Milwaukee. Race continued to be an issue, as advocates for both integration and segregation in baseball lobbied players, fans, and officials alike. Even after earning another validation of the antitrust exemption with the Supreme Court's Toolson decision in November 1953, baseball leaders—including new commissioner Ford Frick—did not rest easy.

-41-

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