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

By Dean A. Sullivan | Go to book overview
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5
Legislating Baseball

During the early 1960s the commissioner and baseball owners, governmental agencies, and the judiciary took steps to manage the future (and protect the past) of the sport. Congress continued to stage occasional investigations of the major leagues, although after 1965 it waited a decade for its next baseball hearing. The result of these efforts was negligible, except in the record books, where Commissioner Ford Frick's "distinctive mark” branded Roger Maris's new home run record as an outsider to baseball tradition. After a tumultuous decade of legal and legislative challenges to baseball's reserve clause and a variety of other disruptions, baseball officials needed to reestablish control over their game, or someone else would.

This process started with the agreement with Continental League officials to place expansion teams in four of their cities in 1961 and 1962—a promise broken by the American League. Shortly afterward the owners slowed the hemorrhaging of the minor leagues by placing them totally under the control of the majors. Two years later, during the winter meetings in late 1964, the retiring Frick convinced owners that the powers of the commissioner's office, reduced twenty years earlier, had to be restored for the good of the game.

New York's Yankees dominated the game on the field, winning five consecutive AL pennants, but Kansas City was arguably the focal point of the game during this era. A Kansas City native, Casey Stengel, survived his controversial firing by the Yankees to resurface with the expansion New York Mets in 1962. In 1961 local fans endured the debut of volatile Athletics owner Charles O. Finley, mourned the retirement (almost) of Monarch legend

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