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

By David George Surdam | Go to book overview

6. Player Movement

How did the New York Yankees, New York Giants, and Chicago Cubs achieve winning records year after year? Why did other teams, such as the St. Louis Browns, Philadelphia Phillies, and Boston Braves, seem to flounder forever? Did winning teams succeed because they had some prescient ability to sign the best rookie players, or did they buy and trade for stars from downtrodden clubs? What was the pattern of player movement in an era without formal free agency and without a draft of amateur players?

Baseball players toiled under the reserve clause during the Great Depression. Once a player signed a professional contract the team could sell, trade, or terminate him almost at will. While owners may have desired a completely controlled labor market, amateur players still faced a relatively free market for their services. Highly desired youngsters sometimes received modest bonuses or higher monthly pay in the Minor Leagues. In Donald Honig’s Baseball When the Grass Was Real, players described how they were signed by teams. Baseball commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis occasionally released Minor League players from their contracts upon finding that a Major League team had broken a rule, sometimes by signing players before they turned eighteen years old. In these cases we can see free agency roughly similar to the modern version, albeit with untried players. The National Football League introduced the reverse

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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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