Counting Numbers, Dollars, and Rights
With the Curt Flood federal lawsuit now a reality, major league baseball struggled to reclaim the attention and aﬀection of its fans. After a decade of oﬀensive dormancy, new stars like Johnny Bench, Rod Carew, and Reggie Jackson took advantage of the more liberalized rules and launched their careers in impressive fashion. Similarly, pitching sensations like Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, and Steve Carlton made assaults on the record book throughout the 1970s. Seymour Siwoﬀ, who headed the Elias Sports Bureau, kept track of the records and publicized them to a growing number of fans preoccupied with baseball statistics. One small group, based in the sociology department of the University of Michigan, used statistics as a means to create the Baseball Seminar—their own "fantasy” league. By the early 1980s a direct descendant of their game, Rotisserie Baseball, became a sensation, with thousands of adherents reveling in their ability to manage statistical versions of the ﬂesh-and-blood players they so admired.
In the early 1970s many players and umpires felt like abstractions. Their struggle for expanded rights was fought by owners and Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. Attempts by players like Flood and Jim Bouton to inform the public of the realities of major league life were met with outrage and denial by baseball oﬀicials, large segments of the sports media, and even other players. Kuhn grudgingly endorsed an eﬀort to open a back door of the Hall of Fame to Negro League stars, but many remained unsatisﬁed with the compromise. The umpires, who, like the players, were demonstrating a growing solidarity and a willingness to ﬁght for their principles, staged the ﬁrst union-organized strike during the 1970 League Championship Series, and the owners quickly acceded to most of their demands.