Major League Baseball’s singular enjoyment of freedom from government regulation cannot be attributed to isolated causal factors. The persistence of baseball’s unregulated monopoly is not a mere historical accident originating in judicial sentimentality and persisting due to the rules of precedent. Nor can baseball’s paradoxical status be explained as simply the result of interest group politics as usual. However, while the cultural significance of the national pastime has surely played a large part in its unusual treatment by the government, the mere evolution of the game in the minds of Americans is not in itself sufficient to explain this regulatory anomaly. The unique place of the business of baseball in America—its regulatory anomaly—is a function of the game’s historical development as encased in the interplay of institutions and ideas, as well as politics. This anomaly has been maintained through a succession of political environments with distinct institutional, ideological, and political characteristics, and a fuller understanding of it is gained by focusing on these changing regulatory regimes.
The developing national institutions of the Progressive Era together with Victorian values, gave birth to the baseball anomaly. The Depression and World War II brought with them a distinct regulatory environment with which baseball’s anomaly at first seemed consistent, only to be ignored later amid more pressing concerns. The 1960s and 1970s brought dissensus to American regulatory politics, but baseball’s unregulated monopoly weathered the period, albeit with difficulty. The 1980s and early 1990s were a period of antigovernment politics. Governmental excesses of previous decades were decried and actions taken to reduce the size of the