Wins, Losses, and Empty Seats: How Baseball Outlasted the Great Depression

By David George Surdam | Go to book overview

4. Farm Systems

One development during the 1930s may have raised Major League expenses: the burgeoning farm system. Major League owners began buying or subsidizing Minor League teams in the 1920s. The owners had previously purchased players from Minor League teams, sometimes in open bidding and sometimes through fixed prices via a draft of Minor League talent.

Owners could negotiate a working agreement with a Minor League team whereby a Major League team would get first dibs on promising Minor League players on that particular Minor League team. The Minor League team might get a subsidy or other support in return. Some Major League owners disliked the potential of a Minor League team owner reneging on an agreement and sending a talented youngster to another team. These owners might choose to purchase a Minor League team and the accompanying players. The Major League owner would then have greater control over the players but would also be liable for the expenses of the Minor League team. In either case, both Major League and Minor League team owners were subject to the Major-Minor agreement pertaining to players. The key question was whether the expense of sustaining Minor League teams was less than that of having to engage in open bidding for new talent. Even if the expense was greater, the Major League owners might still consider the endeavor worthwhile if it meant greater security over the flow of talent from the Minor to the Major Leagues.

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Wins, Losses, and Empty Seats: How Baseball Outlasted the Great Depression
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction xiii
  • Prologue Clash of Titans 1
  • 1- The Financial Side of the Game 5
  • 1- The American Economy and the State of Baseball Profits 7
  • 2- Why Did Profits Collapse? the Revenue Side 27
  • 3- Why Did Profits Collapse? Player Salaries and Other Expenses 59
  • 4- Farm Systems 95
  • Conclusion of Economic Side 109
  • 2- The Game on the Field 111
  • 5- Competitive Balance 113
  • 6- Player Movement 131
  • 3- Using League Rules to Aid in the Recovery 157
  • 7- Helping the Indigent 159
  • 8- Manipulating the Schedule to Increase Revenue 169
  • 4- Innovations to Boost Attendance and Profits 195
  • 9- Radio and Baseball 197
  • 10- Baseball under the Lights 219
  • 11- Other Innovations 247
  • 12- How Effective Were the Innovations? 279
  • 13- The Inept and the Restless Franchise Relocation 285
  • Epilogue the End of An Era 301
  • Appendix 1- Radio and Sunday Ball's Effect on Attendance 307
  • Appendix 2- Dramatis Personae 309
  • Appendix of Tables 315
  • Notes 353
  • Bibliography 399
  • Index 405
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