Crafting the National Pastime's Image: The History of Major League Baseball Public Relations
Anderson, William B., Journalism and Communication Monographs
William Hulbort went: to the door of his hotel room, locked it, put the key in his pocket, and explained to his astonished guests that he wished "to make it impossible for any of you to go out until I have finished what I have to say to you."1 Hulbert, owner of the Chicago White Stockings, then outlined to the owners of the other major clubs of professional baseball players how they could turn the game of baseball into a profitable business. As they formed the National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs (NL) on 2 February 1876, these owners established a method for organizing the business operations of Major League Baseball (MLB) that has lasted until today. Hulbert's partner Albert Spalding explained this system in the following manner: "Like every other form of business enterprise, Base Ball depends for results upon two interdependent divisions, tho one to have absolute control and direction of the system, and the other to engage - always under the executive branch - in the actual work of production." Spalding argued that just because the players were the actual entertainment "producers" did not mean that they should actually manage the entertainment itself.2
When discussing MLB's business system, most historians focus on the industry's labor or political relations, or on individual MLB officials.3 Conversely, this study examined how MLB officials used public relations to provide this system with legitimacy. This analysis suggested that: 1) MLB officials used public relations-type strategies decades before the term "public relations" was coined; 2) those strategies were designed to promote baseball as the national pastime and to advocate the team ownership business system; and 3) the industry's owners and their relationship with the sports media and the external environment had an impact on the institutionalization and use of the public relations function.
The study of MLB public relations warrants scholarly review for several reasons. Few studies on public relations in business history literature exist, and the histories of many industries and corporations are incomplete because their programs to craft an image for their businesses have not been investigated or evaluated.4 Those studies that do examine the impact of public relations on the corporate image often focus on managers of the function such as Arthur Page (AT&T) and Paul W. Garrett (General Motors).5 This study acknowledged that most practitioners do not have the ear of top management and that many public relations professionals implement communications tactics in an effort to develop and maintain an image rather than help upper management establish new policies. Therefore, this study focused more on the public relations strategies used by MLB officials rather than individual public relations practitioners.
This study also acknowledged that the public relations field did not develop in a progressive fashion; that is, constantly evolving toward a higher ideal of becoming a management function. Rather, a longitudinal study of MLB public relations history shows the uneven maturation of the function within the industry, as well as how MLB officials consistently used the function as an image-building and image-maintenance device. The purpose behind the MLB industry's initial and continued use of public relations was to promote baseball as the national pastime and to ensure and maintain support for the owner-managed organizational system. This indicates that, in at least one industry, public relations was developed not to "maintain mutually beneficial relationships,"6 "establish and maintain mutual lines of communication,"7 or to "serve both the organization and the public interest"8 as some commentators who have defined the field have suggested, but to advance the corporate interest.
Definition of Public Relations
The standard, normative definition of public relations as a function that builds and manages relationships with key publics fails to fully explain how Major League Baseball officials used the function.9 Since the industry's leaders mainly treated public relations as a press agentry tool, MLB public relations practitioners had little, if any, policy-making authority. Public relations scholar Joye Gordon argued, "Defining public relations as a management function constitutes a normative conceptualization of public relations and excludes public relations which is not involved in an organization's decision making process."10
As an alternative, Gordon offered a definition of the field based on the symbolic interactionism philosophy. Symbolic interactionism has been dofined as a "theoretical framework based on the assumption that society involves interaction by which individuals actively construct reality in everyday life."11 Some of the characteristics of this perspective are: 1) an emphasis on interactions among people, 2) the use of symbols in communication and interaction, and 3) interpretation as part of action.12 Using this philosophy, the role of the public relations practitioner is to interact with an organization's key publics through the creation of symbols or symbolic messages that the public will interpret in the preferred manner - that is, the public relations practitioner attempts to persuade the public to accept the desired meaning of the organization. Gordon defined this process as the "active participation in the social construction of meaning."13
In this construction of meaning, the media is an integral middleman between an organization and its publics. Sociologist Herbert Blumer maintained that effective public discussion that could affect public opinion depended on the "availability and flexibility of the agencies of public communication such as the press."14 This medium of communication was important, sociologist George Herbert Mead said, due to its potentially wide reach and ability to impact the thoughts of and elicit responses from a large cross-section of society.15 Throughout the baseball industry's history, MLB public relations has mirrored the symbolic interactionism philosophy. That is, MLB officials have used their relationship with sportswriters and sports broadcasters to advance the desired image of the game and business of baseball.
The author reviewed secondary literature to find the events in baseball history that most affected the industry's relationship with the media and thus baseball's desired image.16 These events included: 1) 1890 Brotherhood War, 2) 1919 Black Sox Scandal, 3) 1939 Centennial Celebration, 4) 1951 Celler Hearings, and 5) 1975-76 Labor Dispute. To understand the relationship between MLB officials and the sports media during these moments, the author conducted research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library (NBHFL), the largest repository of archival materials related to baseball. The library had archival files on each pivotal moment studied; these files contained newspaper clippings as well as primary documents such as personal and business correspondence of MLB owners and officials. Reviewing the primary documents helped determine the motives behind industry action and identified the messages MLB officials used to promote their desired meaning of the game.
To examine how sports journalists responded to these messages, the author reviewed the newspaper clippings in each NBHFL file. Since the selection of the newspaper clippings for each file may have been arbitrary, the author supplemented each file's contents by using microfilm research and reviewing the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature for the years surrounding each pivotal moment. The author selected additional newspapers for review on microfilm according to event proximity. For instance, the Chicago Tribune was reviewed for the 1919 Black Sox scandal since the event occurred in the city of Chicago, and the Washington Post was examined for the 1951 Celler Hearings because the congressional hearings occurred in the nation's capital. Access to microfilm also influenced the selection of which newspapers to review. Due to its focus on baseball, The Sporting News was reviewed for each event.
For the 1890 Brotherhood War, the author studied articles and columns from owner-sponsored publications such as Spalding Guide (7 items) and Reach's Guide (6) to further understand the owners' attempts to position the industry. The author also reviewed articles and columns from periodicals such as Sporting News (18 news items), Sporting Life (21), and Harper's Weekly (2), as well as articles and columns from the sporting section of the following newspapers: Boston Daily Globe (1), Brooklyn Daily Eagle (2), Brooklyn Record (1), Chicago Herald (2), Chicago Tribune (3), New York Clipper (20), New York Times (3), and New York World (2).
To study the 1919 Black Sox scandal, the author examined news items from the following periodicals: Baseball Magazine (6), Literary Digest (2), Nation (1), New Republic (1), Outlook (1), Review of Reviews (1), The Sporting News (38), Saturday Evening Post (1), as well as news items from the newspapers such as: Chicago Daily News (24), Chicago Tribune (30), New York Times (71), New York Tribune (5), New York World (1), and St. Louis Post-Dispatch (3).
For the 1939 centennial celebration, the author relied on the Alexander Cleland Collection at the NBHFL for primary documents, which included minutes of organizational meetings, business correspondence, texts of speeches, and brochures. The author also examined news items from the following periodicals: Baseball Magazine (2), New York Public Library Bulletin (1), New York Times Magazine (1), Newsweek (1), The Sporting News (15), and Time (1), as well as news items from these newspapers: New York Daily Mirror (1), New York Herald Tribune (1), New York Journal and American (1), New York Sun (1), New York Times (3), and Sf. Louis Post-Dispatch (1).
The minutes of the 1951 Celler hearings were captured in "Hearings Before the Subcommittee on the Study of Monopoly Power," House of Representatives, 82nd Congress, First session, Part 6, Organized Baseball (1951), which provided insight into owner actions and messages. For a review of sports media coverage of this event, the author reviewed news items from The Sporting News (11), as well as news items from Chicago Tribune (1), New York Times (15), Sf. Louis Post-Dispatch (2), and Washington Post (9).
To analyze the 1975-76 labor dispute, the author examined news items from the following periodicals: Esquire (1), Newsweek (5), Sports Illustrated (2), The Sporting News (1), Time (2), and U.S. News & World Report (1), as well as news items from the following newspapers: Chicago Tribune (42), Los Angeles Times (22), New York Times (51), St. Louis Post-Dispatch (27), and Washington Post (27).
The articles and columns were studied to determine if the language the journalists used was slanted toward management's desired meaning of the game and its administration. Typically, the adjectives and other descriptors the journalists used to describe the industry and the events surrounding it established a slant. For instance, when one 1920 Nation writer argued that baseball "has grown too big to be trusted without some supervision,"17 it indicated that the sporting press had begun to question the owners' leadership of the industry in the wake of the Black Sox scandal.
The end result of this research was historical case studies that fused detailed archival research and newspaper analysis. Developing these historical case studies accomplished two goals. First, it related an untold story. Recognizing how the MLB enterprise used public relations to communicate with key audiences contributed to a greater understanding of how and why the professional baseball industry developed as it did, as well as offered insights into the symbolic interactionism-driven definition of public relations. second, historical case studies added to the limited literature available on public relations history.
Corporate Public Relations
These case studies were structured along the lines oi business historian Richard Tedlow's explanation for corporate public relations history. Tedlow said that corporate public relations developed in response to 1) the socialcultural environment, 2) advances in the mass communications industry, 3) the increasing size and specialization of organizations, and 4) a governmentbusiness rapprochement. Tedlow argued that during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era large corporations began to form and grow in size and power due to, among other factors, a government that supported and approved this development. As a corporation increased in size, key administrative functions became departmentalized. Public relations was deemed important enough to departmentalize because corporations operated in a social-cultural-political environment that espoused the influence of public opinion. Many corporate leaders recognized that influencing public opinion required the ability of public relations professionals to work with the mass media."18
MLB public relations developed in a similar fashion as its corporate counterparts. All four factors mentioned by Tecllow influenced MLB public relations development, but two - organizational specialization and relationship with the journalism industry - especially affected the function. Another factor, organizational response to crisis, also had an impact on how the function developed.
The remainder of this study examined how these three factors affected the institutionalization of a public relations department in the MLB commissioner's office in 1965. The method of MLB administration and the industry's relationship with the media provided a context for the development of this office. Within this context, case studies on the sport's pivotal moments helped explain how MLB officials used public relations - before and after the institutionalization of a department in the commissioner's office - in their attempt to construct the desired meaning of baseball.
MLB and Organizational Specialization
Historian J. A. R. Pimlott argued that organizational specialization had a major impact on the development of corporate public relations. Pimlott said, "As the organizations [increased] in size and the 'publics' along with them, they also [became] more remote, more impersonal, more incomprehensible." As a result, management began to rely more on mass communication rather than interpersonal communication, and management needed experts familiar with the increasingly complex media organizations. Therefore, Pimlott said, public relations was a highly functional, management response to the demands of a changing environment.19
In the same way, MLB public relations began, partly, in response to this type of organizational specialization. In the early 1900s, the owners did not require; public relations practitioners to deal with sportswriters because baseball was a small-scale business that required only a few men to run the entire operation and because sportswriters had promoted and defended the game so often in the past.20 As the industry and its member clubs increased in size in terms of profits and number of employees, baseball's leadership became further removed from the fans and sportswriters, and therefore public relations became necessary to communicate with these key audiences.21
But, at least initially, this increasing distance from the fans only meant individual teams and each league would introduce public relations offices, not the commissioner's office. In 1921, MLB selected a commissioner to oversee the game. The Sporting News editor said, "The creation of the office of Commissioner was primarily a publicity move; therefore why not make it an aid to baseball publicity by furnishing the fans who read the sporting pages with some of the dope that would keep up their interest in baseball?"22 Rather than taking this advice, the National League in 1922 and the American League in 1928 each created a press office that handled media requests called a Service Bureau.23 It was almost a decade later before an individual club, the St. Louis Cardinals, hired a publicity man.24 After the 1930s depression forced the owners to more proactively promote their teams, the number of public relations practitioners at the club level increased. By 1951, all eight NL clubs had a public relations director,25 and six of the eight AL clubs had a public relations director.26 Yet, the office of the commissioner still did not have a public relations administrator.
This changed due to competition from professional football and a desire for organizational specialization. One baseball executive noted the industry's fear of football in a 1963 letter: "Baseball needs better public relations. I'm sure we all recognize this and it becomes all the more important with professional football becoming a seasonal competitor."27 Within the next few years, baseball officials saw that to combat football, changes had to be made in the way the game was presented and in the way the game was managed at the commissioner's level. When MLB Commissioner Ford Frick announced his intention to retire in August 1964, the owners asked him to stay until a replacement could be found. They also asked Frick to submit a report on the needs of the commissioner's office. In this 20-page report, Frick stressed the drift in the commissioner's office from a judicial function during the first commissioner's era (from 1921 to 1944) to the executive, administrative functions Frick had to fill, and urged a comprehensive reorganization of the office to provide the executive leadership needed. Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley, Detroit Tigers owner John Fetzer, and California Angels executive Bob Reynolds used the Frick report as a basis to submit the "cabinet" plan that the owners adopted in October 1965.26
In the cabinet plan, the new commissioner, William Eckert, had assistants to handle the administrative duties in specific areas, such as public relations, radio and television, labor's pension fund and other matters involving working conditions, and amateur baseball. One Sporting News writer said, "It would be foolish to assume that the club owners could pick a new commissioner who is an expert in baseball administration, pensions, public relations, radio and TV and amateur ball. Yet the commissioner will have to make decisions based on accurate information in all these fields. There is only one way he can get it: from assistants specifically assigned to these areas."29 For the public relations director job, Eckert selected Joe Reichler, "the Associated Press's most knowledgeable baseball writer," as one Sports Illustrated described him.30
From this one-man department in 1965, the public relations office increased to eleven people in 1999." The increase in department size led to specialization, with "public relations" (comprised of "media relations" and "community relations") being distinguished from "promotions," which was placed in the marketing department.32
MLB and Sports Journalism
The industry's relationship with the sports media also had an effect on the departmentalization of public relations in the baseball industry. Various agents during the nineteenth century helped craft the image of baseball as the national pastime. Of these groups, including fiction writers and game manufacturers33, the most important to MLB was sports journalism. Many fans got their news about baseball from the newspaper and formed their opinions about the game from this coverage. Historian David Voigt said, "The message of the sports pages became the gospel by which fans learned the game."34
Sportswriters did more than just write about baseball. Perhaps more than in any other sport, baseball journalists were among the architects of the game and the instruments in its growth and success. English-born Henry Chadwick began reporting the early amateur games in New York as early as 1848. He invented the newspaper box score and, as chair of the National Association of Base Ball Players rules committee, officially declared that a baseball game could not end in a tie. He also became a regular contributor to the game's annual guides.35 Chadwick actively promoted baseball as the national pastime, noting, "Every successive season, since the close of the civil war, has seen base ball extended in popularity, and placed upon a still more secure footing as the national game of America."36
Newspaper promotion of baseball continued in the late nineteenth century due to the reciprocal affinity between the press and baseball; that is, as newspaper coverage of baseball increased, both game-day attendance and newspaper circulation rose.37 Between 1870 and 1900, corporate spectator sports such as professional baseball emerged as a mass spectator enterprise.38 And, as one pair of historians noted, "As sport grew, so did the sportspage." The size of the sportspage grew to about nine percent of the total paper and fifteen percent of all general news coverage in 1900.39 Newspaper publishers, anxious to sell papers, covered events that were deemed newsworthy, including the growing sport of baseball. The sports page was a byproduct of yellow journalism and its search for a class of news that interested the greatest number of people, which for men meant sports.40 Historian Frank Luther Mott noted, "Emphasis on sport was characteristic of yellow press, which developed for that department a slangy and facetious style."41
This symbiotic relationship with baseball meant that most sportswriters covered the game in a favorable manner. The relationships of the journalists with their sources reinforced this positive coverage. Sports journalists depended on the accommodations of team officials - including free passes and press boxes - for their stories. Also, a sportswriter until the 1930s traveled with the baseball players, developing camaraderie with some players and an alliance with the team. As a result, reporters tended to be accommodating and agreeable, to write stories that would not anger players or club officials, and in this way keep the channels of communication open.42
The resulting newspaper coverage helped convince the public that baseball contributed to both individual self-improvement and national betterment. Newspaper writers produced stories and editorials that suggested that baseball taught traditional nineteenth century frontier qualities, such as valor: integrity, individualism, patience, and temperance, as well as certain modern values such as teamwork.43 In sum, baseball represented the best of American ideals such as - democracy. While the game may have failed to instill social integration and cohesion as its proponents implied, they believed that it could enhanced its popularity.44
MLB and Pivotal Moments
In addition to sportswriter promotion, some baseball team owners and league officials actively tried to present baseball as the national pastime. Nineteenth-century Chicago White Sox owner Albert Spalding told the American public as often as possible: "Base-ball is distinctively an American game."45 Yet, many MLB officials assumed sportswriters would always promote the game without prompting. As early as 1867, one reporter noted, "Nothing will be lost if reporters for the press are shown a little more courtesy than last year."46' Several crises that affected sportswriter compliance had an impact on the notion that publicity was the game's birthright. One researcher defined a crisis as a "disruption that physically affects a system as a whole and threatens its basic assumptions, its subjective sense of self, its existential core."47 This section will discuss disruptions - such as the 1890 Brotherhood War, the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, the Great Depression of the 1930s, the 1951 congressional investigation into the sport, and the 1975-76 labor disputes - that affected the industry's attitude toward media coverage and public relations.
THE BROTHERHOOD WAR48
After decades of running teams as they wanted, players were placed in a secondary role with the advent of the National League of Professional a secondary role with the adven Base Ball Clubs (NL) in 1876. Chicago team owner William Hulbert and his star pitcher Albert Spalding developed a constitution for the new league and enticed other ownership groups to join the National League, which included teams from St. Louis, Louisville, Cincinnati, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, New York, Phildadelphia Boston, and Hartford. This league brought a new management-labor dichotomy to the sport, which placed the players in a subservient role to the owners.
In the decade following the NL's creation, tensions boiled between management and labor until the players formed a union, the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players, in 1885. The Brotherhood, under the leadership of star player and lawyer John Montgomery Ward, confronted the owners on restrictive measures such as the reserve clause, the sale of players, and a salary ceiling.49 When protracted negotiations between the Brotherhood and the owners broke down, the players fielded a rival league in 1890. With most of the best players in its ranks, the Players' League (PL) attracted financial backers who accepted Ward's plan of sharing profits and power with the players. In 1890, the eight-team PL opened play with teams in every major league city except Cincinnati.
The NL owners responded with a "war committee" headed by Albert Spalding, who now owned the Chicago White Stockings after Hulbert's death in 1882. Spalding vowed that the battle with the Brotherhood would be a "fight to the death."50 One Spalding biographer explained his decision: "...in shaping a policy that established baseball as a stable business enterprise and a national form of entertainment, [Spalding] was not above crushing potential business competitors and controlling the marketplace in a manner that a John D. Rockefeller or an Andrew Carnegie would have admired. ... [He] knew from his own experience as a player that holding on to good talent was just as important as finding it."51 Spalding's philosophy matched that of other business executives of the times. Historian Gabriel Kolko said that late nineteenth-century business leaders worried that unregulated competition, particularly from competition that did not conform to the standards of the largest firms in the industry, would destroy both the quality of the product and the stability of the marketplace. Responses to such competition ranged from conciliation to destruction of rivals.52
Spalding fought for destruction of the upstart league by scheduling games on the same dates as PL teams, bribing PL players to jump ranks, initiating costly lawsuits over the reserve clause, lowering ticket prices, and raiding minor league rosters for players.53 But, Spalding knew the real battle for public opinion would be fought in the newspapers. "In place of powder and shell," he explained, "printers' ink and bluff formed tho ammunition used by both sides."54 Spalding and the other NL owners used a variety of strategies - such as starting their own publications, and bribing and threatening sports journalists - to broadcast their message that the Players' League was destructive to the national game. The NL magnates reinforced this message by stressing that the National League had saved the game from the wasteful players who had ran it, and by blasting the Brotherhood, the PL backers and the war itself for hurting the game.
ONLY THE OWNERS CAN RUN BASEBALL
During the battle between the management- and labor-controlled leagues - dubbed the Brotherhood War - the NL owners constantly noted that the "National League was organized in 1876 as a necessity, to rescue the game from its slough of corruption and disgrace."55 By forming the National League, its officials claimed, the owners created exhibitions more worthy of public confidence and trust than those provided by player-run teams. Spalding argued, "It is to [the NL] that the player of to-day owes the dignity of his profession and the munificent salary he is guaranteed."56
To add third-party credibility to this message, Spalding started a new weekly, The New York Sporting Times and installed former Cincinnati Enquirer sportswriter O. P. Caylor as its editor, and paid arguably the most famous sportswriter of the era, Henry Chadwick, a stipend for editing Spalding's Official Base Ball Guide. Chadwick told his readers, "I feel assured that they [the National League owners] are on the side of sustaining the best interests of the professional base ball business and thereby promoting the welfare of the national game at large."57
THE PLAYERS PLAY A GAME
On the other hand, the players, NL officials argued, worried only about themselves and not the game. NL mouthpieces claimed that the baseball players were only worried about their already high salaries and cushy careers. Caylor told his readers how the Brotherhood players were "living it up" with the security of three-year contracts provided by the new league.58 Chadwick reminded his readers how much the players made for playing a game, noting: "How these poor 'baseball slaves' have been remunerated for their laborious (!) three hours' work on the ball field, on an average of five days out of each week, for six months of each year."59
LABOR PRESSURE COULD DEVASTATE BASEBALL
The NL owners and their spokespersons added that the selfish players and their demands would destroy the game. Spalding forecast that, due to the war, "interest in base ball will soon die out. I regret to say it, but I am convinced that it is the case."60 The sporting publications that supported the NL agreed. A Brooklyn Eagle writer observed that in that borough, "the game has certainly lost much of its former popularity. ... The people seem to have had a surfeit and to be disposed to take a rest."61 The editor of Reach's Official American Association Base Ball Guide noted, "The season of 1890 will go down in the annals of professional base ball as the most disastrous in the history of the game in America. ... The war... had a demoralizing effect on the patrons of the game, many of whom lost interest in it."62 These attacks seemed to summarize the owners' main point: "The only possible system which will yield financial success...is that of having employers in entire control of the club, leaving the players in the position of paid employee only."63
These messages resonated with some baseball fans, with one set of NL supporters writing:
A very great mistake made by the players is in supposing that the public is in sympathy with them as individuals in a revolt against a grievance that seems to have had no real existence. ... Can he [labor leader John Ward] not see that lovers of a great sport are impelled to protest, against the destruction of the game they love so well?64
Despite the support the NL received from a few fans, more baseball devotees wanted to see the best collection of talent; therefore, the PL beat the older league at the turnstiles.65 Yet, both leagues lost money, and the new league's financial losses were too much for its backers to bear."66 After the 1890 season, the disenchanted PL backers who had provided the capital for the player's upstart league sued for peace, thus ending any hope for the Players League's success. Spalding imposed no reprisals on PL players, but he gave no ground on the key issues. With this victory, MLB management obtained total control over baseball labor and maintained this domination for almost one hundred years.
During the Brotherhood War, the owners learned that baseball writers would write favorably about their operation as long as they fielded the best product. Journalists for the Sporting Life and The Sporting News wrote negative articles about the NL during the Brotherhood War, but they began to cover the league favorably when opposition died. For instance, during the war, one Sporting Life writer noted, "As I have ever been a lover of that which is right and honest and fair, I would not give publicity to the mouthlings of Spalding, O'Neill, Day and their satellites."67 The Sporting News had the same attitude toward NL publicity, but, after the war, the editor noted, "We have gone back on the Brotherhood ... [because] the players hav[e] shown their complete inability to manage their affairs."68 The war also taught the owners that the baseball-buying public "as a rule, has no direct interest in the relation of the players and their managers other than is exemplified in action upon the diamond."69 The Brotherhood War demonstrated that the owners had an audience eager to hear the message that baseball was a democratic game that represented the best of American ideals, and the owners had a convenient vehicle in the sporting pages to disseminate such messages.
THE SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM PERSPECTIVE
For symbolic interactionists, the meaning of a situation or object is not fixed and unproblematic, rather it has to be constructed by the participants in the scene.70 And, this was how the image of baseball and its administration formed - not only by the messages MLB officials developed and disseminated but also through their and the players' actions in the Brotherhood War. By 1890, most owners, players, sportswriters and fans alike agreed that baseball was the national pastime. Spalding and his cohorts, with the creation of the NL in 1876, wanted to add another precept to baseball's image: that the owners were necessary to effectively manage the game. This precept was up for debate from 1876 until the end of the Brotherhood War. During the labor dispute, some players, sportswriters, and fans argued that the players could also govern a professional baseball league; however, the players' loss in the Brotherhood War indicated otherwise. By the start of the twentieth century, most fans and sportswriters accepted the notion that the ownership system was required to oversee the national pastime.
Symbols may seem fixed, but the symbolic interaction perspective emphasizes the shifting, flexible, and creative manner in which humans use symbols. The social world is an active one - with constant adjustment and organization as essential features of social interaction. An image is created through such interactions, but it is not necessarily fixed and inflexible. In this perspective, symbolic images "are always open to reappraisal and further adjustment."71 MLB's image was subject to this reappraisal and adjustment process. The remaining case studies describe how MLB officials responded to crises and shifting external environments in their attempts to ensure baseball's image remained constant. During each event, MLB officials had to interact with an important public that threatened to undermine one or both of the industry's precepts: in 1919, it was sportswriters; in 1939, the fans; in 1951, the government; and in 1975-76, the players.
THE BLACK SOX SCANDAL
The proposition to intentionally lose the 1919 World Series came from Chicago White Sox first baseman Chick Gandil who was connected with a gambler named Joe Sullivan. Gandil offered Sullivan a proposition: to lose the series in return for $80,000 in cash to be divvied up amongst the players he could get interested in the fix. Sullivan accepted the offer and he and his colleagues agreed to pay the $80,000 in $20,000 installments after each loss. Gandil was successful in recruiting pitching ace Eddie Cicotte, pitcher Claude Williams, shortstop Charles Risberg, third baseman George Weaver, Happy Felsch, Shoeless Joe Jackson and a bench player named Fred McMullin. Due to the efforts, or lack thereof, of the "Black Sox" players, Chicago lost the series to the Cincinnati Reds five games to three (the World Series was a best of nine same series in 1919).
Before the 1919 World Series, gamblers had told sportswriter Hugh Fullerton that the outcome was preordained, so he watched for suspicious play. Following the series, Fullerton wrote that gamblers had fixed the World Series.72
The sporting press immediately defended baseball and its administration. The Baseball Magazine editor said, "Mud slinging as a fine art has become unusually prevalent these days. It was inevitable that baseball, cleanest of all professional sports, the freest from deserved criticism, the most above suspicion, should come in for the gentle attention of the muck-raker."73 One Sporting News reporter blamed gamblers for causing rumors of a fix: "One lot of gamblers put something over on another bunch of gamblers and the bunch that got bumped raised a hand."74
The sporting press hesitated to write that the fix rumors might be true. The relationship between Chicago White Sox Charles Comiskey and sports journalists may offer one explanation as to why. Some owners provided the press with easy access to tickets, as well as free food and drink. Comiskey led the industry in press generosity; he built a special press dining room in Comiskey Park, complete with fine food and drink. In return, the press praised Comiskey.75
The sporting press refused to attack the MLB establishment or give any credence to rumors of gambler's involvement in the 1919 World Series. At the end of the 1920 season, however, a Chicago grand jury began investigating an allegation that gamblers and Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs players had rigged a regular season game. During this investigation, one gambler told a Philadelphia sports writer of his involvement in the 1919 series. His story persuaded two of the Black Sox to confess to the grand jury.76 As the grand jury gathered more evidence of the fix, the baseball writers began to blast the owners. The New York Evening Mail editor argued that the owners would never "come clean" since they had "handicapped" sportswriters trying to cover the story due to an "apparent dislike of publicity." The Kansas City Times editor added that the owners could not be faulted for gamblers entering the game, but it was their fault "if the gamblers got such a hold on [the game] that a World Series can be unfairly won or lost."77 The sporting press agreed with the Nation writer who said that the "creature" called baseball "has grown too big to be trusted without some supervision."78
The owners responded to the sports media outcry by acting against the three-man National Commission that had overseen the industry since the merger of the National League and the American League in 1903. The power of the commission - consisting of American League president Ban Johnson, National League president Harry Pulliam, and Cincinnati Reds owner August "Garry" Herrmann - had been on the wane even before the Black Sox scandal. Unofficial commission leader Ban Johnson was undergoing a power struggle with American League owners when the Black Sox scandal broke. The crisis broke the National Commission's back as the owners replaced it in January 1921 when they named Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis as the game's commissioner.
Baseball's leaders first met Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis during a rival league's antitrust suit in 1915, which was heard in his Illinois federal district court. A victory by the rival league, called the Federal League, would have destroyed baseball's unique monopoly status. Landis won the gratitude of the owners by stalling his decision until the rival league had collapsed, and their suit was withdrawn. The owners, as well as most sports-writers and fans, believed Landis could clean up baseball's image.79
As Landis began his new job as baseball commissioner, the Chicago grand jury indicted the eight Black Sox players on 22 October 1920. They charged the players with defrauding the public since no law existed to prevent fixing baseball games. The trial, which began on 27 June 1921, ended on August 2, with the jury finding for the defendants. Then, the defendants, their lawyers, and the jury went to a nearby restaurant where they celebrated together.80
After spending decades telling the American public about the decency and cleanliness of baseball, the sporting press was outraged at the verdict. A Sporting News writer said, "There has never been a jury verdict that aroused such wide discussion and so much unfavorable comment."81 The Sporting News editor noted that sportswriters across the nation were expressing "unanimous disappointment that the indicted men were not found guilty and given sentences of prison, expressing the opinion without exception that the evidence produced against them should have convinced any intelligent jury of the guilt charged by the prosecution."82
Responding to the sporting press's criticism of the trial verdict, Commissioner Landis promptly expelled the eight Black Sox from baseball for life. Landis announced in an open letter to the players:
Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player who throws a ball game, no player that undertakes or promises to throw a ball game, no player that sits in conference with a bunch of crooked players and gamblers where the ways and means of throwing a game are discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball.83
The sporting press reacted positively to this decision. The sporting editor of the Chicago Tribune said of the Black Sox: "They must slink away, shunned by all honest men, with their own self-respect, their reputations and their means of earning a livelihood gone. Such a terrible object lesson is enough to keep clean for years to come any other players who might be tempted to similar knavery."84
In providing Commissioner Landis the power to ban the Black Sox, the owners regained the perception that the current MLB administration was in control of and, in fact, good for the game.85 Working to ensure media support for MLB actions was not new, but the scandal seemed to give it strength. One year after the trial the National League created a Service Bureau to respond to media requests for information.
THE SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM PERSPECTIVE
In the symbolic interactionism philosophy, human beings interpret each other's actions instead of merely reacting to each other's actions. A response is not made directly to the actions of one another but instead is based on the meaning that a person attaches to such actions. Thus, human interaction is mediated by the use of symbols, by interpretation, and by ascertaining the meaning of one another's actions.86
With this in mind, it was not necessarily important that MLB officials appointed a commissioner to help oversee the game or that they established a press office to facilitate press coverage - what was important was that sportswriters supported these initiatives. An integral part of ensuring that baseball's image remained constant was securing press compliance. Because the sports page was often the conduit between MLB officials and the fans, the sportswriters' importance was assured. Yet, during the scandal, the owners learned that the sportswriters would not simply print their messages; the sportswriters wanted policy change to ensure that baseball would remain America's game. By acting to address the scandal and to appease sportswriters, MLB officials recovered sportswriter agreement with the desired image of the game and its administration. A new, stern commissioner helped guarantee that baseball would remain clean of gambling influences and thus was once again worthy of representing the best of American ideals such as competition and fair play. And, the service bureau made it easier for sportswriters to obtain information to help distribute the industry's messages.
1939 CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION87
After Commissioner Landis cleansed the game of its gambling stigma, Major League Baseball continued its postwar growth into and throughout the 1920s. This success ended with the economic crises of the thirties. Depression-imposed hardships challenged all clubs to find new ways to improve revenues, changing the attitude of many owners toward proactive publicity. By decade's end, promotion had swept the game, exemplified by how the industry celebrated its one-hundredth birthday in 1939.
Since the game of baseball would be one hundred years old in 1939, many Major League Baseball officials wanted to celebrate the national pastime's centennial in grand style. Commissioner Landis hired a New York-based public relations firm, Steve Hannagan & Associates, to develop the campaign to promote the game's birthday. This public relations campaign marked a shift during the 1930s toward increased efforts to communicate with baseball's audiences.
Proactive marketing and public relations efforts were unnecessary in the 1920s. By this time, favorable coverage of the national pastime had become almost a given. The 1929 American Society of Newspaper Editors annual meeting report noted, "All large city newspapers now surrender four or five pages to sports news on weekdays and eight or even ten pages on Sundays. The AP has a twelve-man sports staff. ... The International News, out of 45,000 words in a full thirteen hour report, carried 5,000 words on sports."88 Publishers agreed that circulation, prestige and reader interest were created by sports news. William P. Beazell, assistant manager of the New York World, said he did not regret giving away free space to sports, even though someone profited, any more than he regretted giving away free space to stock market reports because someone benefited financially. He also noted, "No single classification of news ... sells more papers than sports."89 Due to this support, members of each league's press office, the Service Bureau, responded to media requests for information rather than proactively sending information to the reporters.
With the advent of the Great Depression and its economic impact90, however, MLB owners and their press agents became more proactive in garnering publicity. MLB public relations efforts also diversified beyond the traditional reliance on the sporting press as newspaper coverage of the game dropped. Due to the depression and competition from tabloids, the percentage of the newspaper newshole dedicated to sports dipped from fifteen percent in 1920 to thirteen percent in 1930. Even baseball publications urged MLB officials to try new ways to promote the sport. The Sporting News editor said, "Old-fashioned critics of the game do not like the promotional methods employed by some of the club owners... [But] The cash customers nowadays seem to demand thrills with their baseball and The Sporting News is a firm believer in giving the spectators what they want."91
As a result, MLB press agentry became more aggressive in securing media coverage. For instance, rather than waiting for media requests to disseminate messages, the American League Service Bureau chief started a program in which players would talk two to four minutes to a radio audience before each game.92 Individual clubs also increased their public relations efforts, developing team newspapers such as Cubs News, Dodger Doings, and Giants Jottings that previewed future opponents and printed letters from fans. Almost every team installed a public address system to bring the fans closer to the action.93 MLB not only engaged in new ways of promoting the game to spur attendance, but fundamentally changed the way the game was presented as well. Night baseball and broadcasting the game on radio slowly gained acceptance.94
These promotional and publicity efforts helped MLB deflect, if not completely overcome, the economic crisis and culminated in the baseball centennial celebration in 1939. Commissioner Landis selected Hannagan & Associates to spread the baseball centennial gospel - the first time a publicity agency had been hired to promote the entire industry. Landis wanted Hannagan because he had run a public relations firm in New York City since 1925 and had developed a reputation as a flamboyant but honest businessman. Hannagan had promoted the popular Memorial Day Auto Race on the Indianapolis Speedway, turned the muck-filled bay known as Miami Beach, Florida, into a tourist attraction, and attracted thousands of visitors to the Sun Valley ski resort with his publicity tactics.95 Landis wanted Hannagan's agency to publicize the official dedication of the Hall of Fame and Museum on 12 June 1939 in Cooperstown, New York with a host of prededication efforts.
Hannagan expanded the assignment into a national, yearlong celebration. One Hannagan & Associates employee, Al Stoughton, previewed the agency's strategies to the industry's leaders on 6 December 1938. Stoughton claimed the one hundredth anniversary of baseball would be "one of the greatest birthday parties in history." The public relations plan called for a "grassroots" celebration that would involve communities throughout the nation, thus allowing the average fan a chance to join in the activities. Stoughton emphasized that the celebration would require the complete cooperation of all baseball leagues and clubs. In order to create a cooperative atmosphere for all of the diverse groups involved, Stoughton linked the game of baseball with the nation's history, noting that the celebration would "glorify the game that is so much a real part in the growth of our nation in the past 100 years."96
For the grassroots portion of the campaign, Hannagan & Associates designed brochures to teach local community leaders how to conduct invitational baseball tournaments, a high school baseball day, and a baseball clinic.97 The firm also prepared a brochure titled "Play Ball America" that emphasized how various cities could celebrate the game's birthday. According to the publication, local communities could emulate the activities of major league cities by staging their own centennial shows with the assistance of their leading citizens. The brochure contained an organizational diagram for local centennial committees including executive, publicity, programs, entertainment, finance, decoration, tournaments, and clinics. The brochure detailed the personnel and function of each committee, publicity material that was available, instructions for staging special activities, and tournament plans. Rounding out this publication was a brief history of baseball over the last century and information on MLB's museum and the Hall of Fame.98
Although the opening ceremonies at Cooperstown would be the campaign's focal point, the Hannagan agency spent the major portion of their budget printing and mailing these brochures. Before the museum's dedication, the firm mailed brochures to thirty thousand Legion posts and junior teams, three thousand high school coaches, five thousand amateur teams, forty-eight state WPA recreation directors, five hundred college coaches, four hundred minor league teams, and all major league franchises.99
The Hannagan agency also generated media results, including a series of thirteen articles in the New York Journal and American on the history of the game. The June 1939 issue of Baseball Magazine, the annual Sporting News Record Book for 1939, and Newsweek placed photos with baseball-related themes on their covers. Also, on 19 March 1939, NBC Radio ran an hour-long national program called "The Cavalcade of Baseball" that traced the first one hundred years of baseball.100
The opening of the Hall of Fame and Museum on 12 June 1939 also achieved attendance and media coverage success. The commissioner, the postmaster general, both league presidents, many of baseball's legendary figures, three national network radio teams, dozens of the nation's leading sportswriters, two players from the current roster of each of the sixteen teams, and, in all, more than ten thousand people converged on Cooperstown for tho dedication ceremony and festivities.101 Stoughton noted that Landis's dedication speech was "carried over the three great national radio networks and reported by press and newsreel to the world."102 By the end of 1939, the Hall of Fame and Museum had attracted almost thirty thousand people from thirty-one countries and every state in the nation except Wyoming.103
The centennial celebration represented arguably the best example of how active participation helped in the social construction of meaning of baseball as the national pastime. In 1933, a Printer's Ink writer noted that baseball team owners had "argued that advertising was unnecessary for so firmly-entrenched and voluntarily-publicized an enterprise as baseball."104 But, by 1939, the Depression had taught MLB owners that press coverage and fan attendance was not certain. The owners responded with an array of promotional and public relations strategies, including explicitly tying baseball to America with the centennial celebration. One of the Cooperstown officials involved in the celebration's planning wrote Commissioner Landis: "I feel quite sure the Centennial Commission will demonstrate to the American Public that baseball is the 'National Game."105 And he was correct.
Both politicians and sportswriters anointed baseball the national pastime. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in an open letter to MLB officials, said, "Baseball has become, through the years, not only a great national sport, but also the symbol of America as the melting pot."Sports-writers reinforced this union of baseball and America. The Sporting News editor said that in "celebrating baseball's anniversary, the nation not only is observing the origin of the game, but also the birth of a democratic institution."107 And, in a nationwide poll, sportswriters named baseball the "most popular game in the United States."108
THE SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM PERSPECTIVE
Symbolic interactionists suggest that people interpret their environment by assigning meanings to things and that symbols help in these definitions.109 Baseball's centennial resonated so strongly with 1930s Americans because many were seeking a place in society in light of economic hardship. Many Americans felt shame and fear at their economic plight, creating a need to reorder the world according to a more rational scheme of things. This led to a search for an American way of life that would overcome these feelings of apprehension by enabling one to belong.110 Savvy marketers capitalized on this sentiment by using symbols to create a national American community that simultaneously created a sense of belonging and helped sell their products. Corporations such as General Electric, AT&T, and General Motors presented themselves during this era as personal, albeit large, American friends to the consuming public.111 In the same manner, MLB public relations marketed the game under the guise of tradition - effectively positioning baseball as a representation of an earlier, some would say better, time in American history.
THE CELLER HEARINGS
This image of baseball as a reminder of American ideals can also be seen in the 1951 congressional investigation into baseball operations, which occurred duo to the game's presence in the courts. The organized baseball cartel had gone without a major competitive challenge until rival Mexican League promoters enticed eighteen MLB players to leave organized baseball in 1946. When Commissioner "Happy" Chandler banned the defectors for five years, one player, Danny Gardella, took Major League Baseball to court to obtain reinstatement. The reserve clause in each MLB player's contract read that if a player had not signed with his club by March 1 the "Club shall have the right by written notice to the Player... to renew this contract for one year on the same terms."112 Gardella's lawyer maintained that this gave MLB owners the rights to the player for one year and one year only, arguing that the reserve clause did not ensure a lifetime contract. Although this reasoning made headway in the courts, Gardella settled out of court for sixty thousand dollars before the circuit court could make a final decision on the legality of the reserve clause.113
The owners breathed a sigh of relief with this victory, but seeing the national pastime in court compelled Congressman Emanuel Celler (D-N.Y.) to investigate. An avid baseball fan, Celler took his concerns before the committee he chaired, the Judiciary's Sub-Committee on Monopoly Power. Celler observed that the hearings were prompted by two factors: "First, for the past year the Judiciary Committee has had complaints from ball players. Second, there are three House bills which would exempt baseball, the reserve clause and other matters from anti-trust legislation. It is the job of the Judiciary Committee to investigate these bills and the conditions which they seek to ameliorate."114 Yet, although he was investigating the national pastime, Celler asked reporters to "please make it emphatic that we are gunning for no one. Just trying to find out, and possibly to help baseball against itself."115
The U.S. Congress found the sporting media ready and willing to defend the national pastime against government intervention. One Sporting News writer argued, "We do not agree it is necessary to go to Washington to got a person to run from first to third base. Another government agency is not needed to waken relief pitchers from their somnambulistic progress to the mound."116 Many writers went beyond opposing government intervention and attacked Celler personally. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports editor wrote that Celler assumed "more authority than the average person believes is vested in a Congressman when he says the present major league alignment is intolerable." A New York Daily News editor attacked Celler's political aspirations, noting that Celler "attacked" baseball "to keep his personal publicity plentiful ... go meddle with some other business."117 One Washington Post columnist called the investigation just one part of the "current Washington craze for staging public razzle-dazzles."118
Baseball writers argued that Celler and Congress had little insight into the inner workings of the game. One writer noted, "Out of this investigation will come, or should come, the obvious disclosure that baseball is a peculiar institution, a bit of Americana, a wholesome American thing that would be destroyed" without the reserve rule. Another columnist agreed, noting that the "baseball world collapses" without the reserve rule.119
In regards to this outcry by the sporting media, Celler said, "I discovered I could match the wrath of any one single sportswriter against the wrath of Mr. Benjamin Fairless," whose United States Steel Corporation had earlier been investigated by Celler's committee. Celler added that the sports journalists "came upon Washington like locusts."120 In the face of this lobby, Congressman Celler convened the hearings on 30 July 1951. The Celler Committee considered legislation that would overturn MLB's thirty-year-old anti-trust exemption or expressly grant MLB immunity for its unique business provisions such as the reserve rule. Celler said, "Organized baseball affords this sub-committee with almost a text-book example of what might happen to an industry which is governed by rules and regulations among its members rather than by the free play of competitive forces."121
Despite this bravado, the congressmen proved their compliance on the opening day of the hearings, with former player Ty Cobb as the first witness. The congressmen seemed more interested in Cobb's playing career than his testimony. For his part, Cobb told the legislators that MLB needed no outside interference and that the reserve clause was necessary.122 Cobb served as a useful first witness for MLB because he was well known to the general public and appeared to represent the players. Yet, few current players testified before the Celler committee - they feared the owners. On the other hand, a long list of management spokespersons came before the committee to tout the national pastime and its wise administration. The hearings provided the owners a public forum to promote their desired image of the game without requiring them to change its administration.
PRECEPT ONE: BASEBALL IS THE NATIONAL PASTIME
Celler himself argued that professional baseball was not only the national pastime but had a "beneficial effect [that] is felt throughout the country." Current National League President and MLB commissioner candidate Ford Frick (he would become commissioner later during the hearings) testified that baseball gave "much to the community," not the least of which was a reduction in juvenile delinquency.123 Throughout the hearings, the owners focused on baseball as a sport and downplayed baseball as a business. Former commissioner "Happy" Chandler noted, "I think it would be a sad day for the game, and a sadder day for the American people if the American people ever got the idea it is a big business and not a sport."124
Many members of the congressional committee agreed and distanced themselves from the investigation. Rep. Kenneth B. Keating (R-N. Y.) said he had grave doubts "whether it is good for baseball for a bunch of Congressmen to go sticking their noses into the problem."125 Rep. Joseph R. Bryson (D-S.C.) added, "This is a delicate situation and I wonder if it's worth our time." The committee sent the message early in the hearings - yes, we are investigating baseball, but we won't do anything to harm the national pastime.126
PRECEPT TWO: THE SYSTEM IN PLACE IS NECESSARY FOR BASEBALL'S CONTINUED HEALTH
This stance provided baseball officials with an opportunity to promote the current administration. Even when Celler criticized MLB, sportswriters quickly refuted his charges. When Celler alleged baseball had an "aura of secrecy and sanctity around" it, one Washington Post writer replied, "But Macy's doesn't tell Gimbel's [its secrets] either." After Celler noted baseball was "dominated by men who have a financial interest in the game," the Post columnist responded, "Who but men with a financial interest in the game could be expected to take a lead in promoting the game and their own interest?"127
The owners noted that although finances entered the game, they profited little from it. Frick quoted former Sporting News employee"128 and government economist Peter Craig, who maintained that the owners made little money from the sport. In fact,
the real cost of witnessing professional baseball is as low as it has ever been since 1915 and is forty percent below 1933 ... Baseball today offers the best amusement buy per dollar in America. Most important of all, baseball protects the fan by its constant policing of the game.129
Since the fan received such value from the game, the owners argued, the industry needed the current business system to maintain its prices.
The system not only helped the game, MLB officials claimed, but the American public as well. Ford Frick emphasized the American nature of the current system. "In short, a Marxian principle of standardized remuneration on the basis of occupation would replace the American principle of reward on the basis of merit and capacity," if Congress removed the reserve rule.130
CLOSE OF INQUIRY
The hearings ended in late October. Five months later, on 22 May 1952, the Celler committee released its report, which found legislation for government control of baseball unnecessary. The committee wrote that baseball could solve its own problems but stopped short of endorsing legislation that exempted the reserve rule from federal anti-trust laws.131
The Celler committee report reinforced the industry's desired image, describing baseball as a "game of American origin which has long exemplified the finest traditions of clean, rigorous sportsmanship. ... Its outstanding record of honesty and integrity, maintained in today's chaotic world conditions, is a symbol to which the people of the United States may justly point with pride." Although this American game occupied a "monopoly position" according to the report, it could not "operate successfully and profitably without some form of a reserve clause." In the end, baseball officials and sportswriters convinced legislators that only the current ownership system could effectively manage baseball.
THE SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM PERSPECTIVE
While the social world is composed of material and objective features, what distinguishes humans, according to symbolic interactionists, is their extensive and creative use of communication through symbols.132 By 1951, MLB had become seemingly impervious to government intervention into its operations because the game of baseball had become entrenched as a symbol of American ideals. The meaning of symbols is a question of mutual alignment, not an individual construction. Therefore, despite Cellar's investigation of MLB administration, fans, sportswriters, and congressional leaders alike "knew" that baseball, and by extension its administration, was good for America. The Celler hearings did not demonstrate the effectiveness of MLB public relations initiatives; instead, this event showed the power of an embedded image. The meaning of baseball was set by years of consistent owner messages and sportswriter agreement with those messages, and an external environment (post war opulence) that allowed baseball to remain the national pastime.
THE 1975-76 LABOR DISPUTE133
By the 1970s, rising labor power had shifted enough for MLB players to question that the ownership system was the best means to manage the game. After World War II many industries faced growing labor power. Rebounding from federal government intervention during World War II, union membership swelled in the post war years. Union workers gained a measure of security against old age, illness, and unemployment, as well as the right to fair treatment at the workplace.134 During this time, MLB players also began to gain some power in their relationship with owners.
Only when the MLB players hired Marvin Miller as director of the Major League Baseball Players Association in 1966 did they make any advances in their subservient relationship with the owners. Miller negotiated the 1969 agreement that raised the minimum salary, increased the pension fund, and won for players the right to use agents in bargaining for salaries with owners, and brokered the 1972 agreement, which won for players the right to take their salary disputes to arbitration.135
The players achieved their biggest victory to date - free agency - when they won the 1975 Messersmith-McNally arbitration case. In 1974 pitchers Andy Messersmith of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Dave McNally of the Baltimore Orioles played the entire season without new contracts. Both pitchers were paid their previous year's salary, but both had refused to sign their contracts. At the end of the season they declared that they were free agents because the reserve clause in the last contract they had signed lasted for only one year. MLB officials argued that the players' respective team owner clause could renew a contract unilaterally year after year. Messersmith and McNally brought their cases to a panel of arbitrators, and the panel held that the reserve clause was actually an option clause: it gave the teams an additional option year to sign a player to a new contract. Without a new contract, the player was a free agent and could market his service to other professional teams. The decision effectively circumvented the long-established reserve rule.136
When the owners failed to overturn the arbitration decision on a legal appeal, they locked the players out of spring training camps in 1976, claiming that the latest labor agreement had expired with no new contract in place. During the labor negotiations, one baseball executive said, "For the good of baseball, we gave, gave, gave. We just don't have any more blood to give."137 But, in the end, the owners did have more to give as the 1976 negotiations confirmed the Messersmith-McNally decision: the end of the reserve rule and the beginning of free agency.138
The owners had good reason to fear free agency. In 1971, player salaries averaged $34,000. Thereafter the average rose to $52,000 in 1976, to $90,000 in 1978, to $100,000 in 1979, and to $185,000 in 1980.139 At the same time, however, attendance increased 39 percent and total team revenues went up 66 percent.140 The owners ignored these numbers and concentrated on player salaries. Yet, part of the blame for the rise in salaries was the all-or-nothing mentality the owners had in negotiating with the players. During the 1975 arbitration case and the 1976 lockout, rather than negotiate a more positive agreement, the owners attacked the players through sportswriters to try to achieve their aims.
But, in the sixties and seventies, the media industry was changing. Media, especially television, had increased its sports coverage, and, regrettably for baseball, other sports such as professional football took a sizable portion of this coverage and diminished baseball's hold on the media. The sports coverage that remained for baseball was not just booster-oriented anymore. The Vietnam War and Watergate depleted the confidence between large organizations and the press. Some sports reporters mirrored this broader movement as they moved away from cheerleading to more objective writing.141 Thus, while some sportswriters agreed with and reinforced the messages the owners disseminated during the labor disputes, others questioned owner assertions.
These assertions mirrored the three messages the owners distributed during the 1890 Brotherhood War: 1) only the owners can manage the game; 2) the players play a game; and 3) the game will be destroyed by player demands. The owners had used the same stance throughout baseball's labor relations history; the difference this time was the variety of responses from the sportswriters.
ONLY THE OWNERS CAN RUN BASEBALL
During the Messersmith-McNally hearings, sports reporters implicitly supported the management-labor system that demarcated players from the owners by not questioning its validity, yet they differed on whether the owners or the players were at fault for the labor dispute. Some argued that the players were too selfish to care about the game. Due to the players' greed, a Chicago Tribune editor noted, "[I]n our Bicentennial year... we are being deprived of one of our birthrights as Americans - spring training."142 Other writers argued that MLB management contributed to the present labor strife with their stubbornness. A New York Times columnist argued that the owners and their lawyers had said they wanted the Messersmith-McNally case to "go to collective bargaining. Then they refuse[d] to bargain."143 Another Times writer noted the MLB executives were "dragging logic through extra innings" with their stance toward the players.144
THE PLAYERS PLAY A GAME
Still, many sports journalists and fans could not understand how baseball players could complain considering their compensation for playing a game. During the industry's labor battles, the owners would remind the players of how fortunate they were to receive pay for playing a game. One baseball executive said that maybe the owners should allow the players to strike in 1972 since "it will get the guys who don't want to play out of the game and let the fellows who appreciate the major leagues play."145
During the seventies, many sportswriters and fans agreed that the players should be happy with their circumstances. One fan said, "Never in history have so few been so ungrateful to so many, after receiving so much for doing so little."146 Another baseball aficionado summarized the attitude of many when he said, "Sports are no fun anymore, they're big business."147
Conversely, some sportswriters looked past player salaries to scold the owners for their messages during the Messersmith-McNally arbitration case and 1976 lockout. A Sports Illustrated writer argued that the owners were misleading the public when they said the labor issue was not about paying the players more money, noting, "History teaches us that when somebody says it's not the money but the principle, it's the money."148 A Newsweek writer chastised the owners for "drawing fearful pictures of bidding wars between teams, of salaries becoming so inflated as to bankrupt the game, of top players all gravitating to the richest teams or the cities with the most media exposure" to refute labor's argument that the reserve rule harmed player movement.149
LABOR PRESSURE COULD DEVASTATE BASEBALL
MLB officials responded that player movement would destroy the game. Losing tho Messersmith-McNally case and introducing player free agency, the owners contended, "would put baseball on the endangered species list."150 One columnist responded to such complaints that all baseball executives must have the same writer since they all spoke the "same tale of woe."151
Although some sportswriters disagreed with the owners, many fans and sportswriters sided with the owners. In a 1976 Sporting News poll of its readers, almost sixty percent sided with the owners, more than thirty percent were neutral, and only seven percent sided with the players.152 With this backing, tho industry's longstanding messages seemed to succeed in positioning them as integral to the game. Baseball aficionados accepted many of the arguments made by the owners - such as the players were overpaid for playing a game - but in the end they really wanted to enjoy the game, not debate labor issues. Thus, while many sportswriters and fans during the 1970s sided with the owners, they also wanted the magnates to end the strife so they could stop thinking about it. Also, the owners ignored another key public, the players, and thus lost the free agency fight. As historian Kenneth Jennings noted, "The media and the government might influence the public in labor relations issues and impasses, but not union and management representatives."153
The labor battles during the 1970s seemed to indicate a need to reduce the industry's traditional reliance on the sports media. Sportswriter cooperation was no longer assured. Other sports such as professional football weakened baseball's claim to the title as the national pastime and its hold on the media. The players had more power in the management-labor relationship and refused to listen to the sportswriters who told them to put the game's interests (read: the interest of the owners) above their own. Still, the owners relied on the sports media to disseminate its messages. Even though cooperation was uneven at best, the owners had learned by this time that the mass media still provided the best vehicle to promote the game and its administration.
THE SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM PERSPECTIVE
For symbolic interactionists, the meaning of a thing - such as the game and industry of baseball - is continuously negotiated through a process of interaction in which its symbolic significance is formed and reformed. This meaning is negotiated through a process of interpretation in which the significance of a thing is reviewed in the light of existing understandings and current interpretations of the context in which the thing is situated.154 In the sixties and seventies, baseball was still seen as an important American game - yet not as many people as before saw it as the national pastime155 which led MLB officials to act as if the same messages they had used in the past should continue to work. Yet, MLB executives failed to recognize changes in the context in which baseball was now situated.
Sociologist Wendy Griswold noted, "Both cultural objects and the people who create and receive them are not floating freely, but are anchored in a particular context. We can call this the social world, by which we mean the economic, political, social, and cultural patterns and exigencies that occur at any particular point in time."156 The social world of the sixties and seventies included a variety of changes for America, including the rise of labor power. Images are ever changing, and an external environment is an integral part of this shifting and adjusting process. With the changes in the world around and including baseball players, the messages MLB officials had developed during the 1890 Brotherhood War and used consistently and constantly ever since failed to resonate with the players.
The purpose of MLB public relations - whether run by practitioners of the field or other MLB executives - has been to promote the concept of baseball as an important American pastime that requires the owners to run it. What this study of MLB public relations history suggested is that dissemination of messages alone cannot ensure a public will accept the desired meaning. In examining the interaction between the MLB organization and its key publics - fans, sportswriters and sports broadcasters, government officials, and players - it became clear that organizational action, the external environment and self-conception, combined with the production and distribution of messages, had an impact on how each public received baseball's desired image.
Blumer said that social interaction presupposes that group life consists of interaction between members of a group. It is in this interaction that Blumer places primary importance in the formation of human behavior and of meanings; thus, the actions of others must be constantly considered in the decision-making process of the individual.157 In this view, baseball fans developed a sense of what the game meant to them from what sportswriters said about the game as well as owner and player actions. As Blumer asserted, "Both the functioning and fate of institutions are set by [a] process of interpretation as it takes place among [a] diverse set of participants"158 with interpretation being defined as an active process of formulation, reconsideration, and revision. Members of the MLB industry engaged in this process in regards to baseball's image. MLB officials had formulated the two precepts of baseball's image, with the help of sportswriters, in the nineteenth century. As certain moments in the industry's history challenged or threatened to undermine these precepts (reconsideration), MLB officials acted to reinforce them (revision). The result has been an ingrained belief in many minds that baseball is an important American tradition. U.S. President Herbert Hoover said, "Next to religion, baseball has furnished a greater impact on American life than any other institution."159 Columbia University professor Jacques Barzun added, "Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball."160 MLB promotion has also advanced its second precept to the point that - although players and union officials complain about it - few question the existence of the ownership-player system.
The environment surrounding the industry also had an impact on how the game was perceived. But, it is not just the political or economic environment that affects an individual; of more importance is how an individual defines the existing environment. From the standpoint of symbolic interactionism, human beings live within symbolic universes where access to the world is mediated, enabled and constrained by the use of meaningful assemblies of symbols, and these assemblies provide a particular view of the world. For all practical purposes, the world a person shares with others is constructed by drawing upon the particular sets of symbols. In this way, the world is rendered intelligible to those who share and understand a worldview.161 Blumer said, "The actor selects, checks, suspends, regroups, and transforms the meanings in the light of the situation in which he is placed."162 Therefore, it is important that organizations not only understand the external environment, but also how key publics define this world.
For example, 1970s MLB players - surrounded by a world in which unions began to acquire power in the management-labor dynamic - saw owners attempting to curtail their rise in power. The players, therefore, refused to listen to MLB officials' messages that they were hurting the game with a desire for more control over their professional lives. MLB officials, ignoring changes in the players and their conception of the world around them, continued to disseminate the same messages they had used in the nineteenth century. By disregarding changes in the players and their environment, the MLB officials took a hard-line stance in labor negotiations that ultimately led to player free agency.
In defining the world around them, which occurs through interaction with others, an individual gives insight into his or her own self-perception. In fact, the notion that people create and maintain the self by interpreting the surrounding social environment through interaction with others lies at the heart of symbolic interactionism.163 In this view, the self is one which emerges not just from the individual, but with how others see the person, and how the person responds to and develops his or her own responses to this. As mentioned in the 1939 centennial celebration case study, this process helps explain the success of that event. Many Americans wanted to overcome a sense of degradation brought about by economic hardship. As baseball fans, they could view themselves as a member of a community that celebrated American ideals such as democracy and fair play. In this manner, perhaps inadvertently, MLB officials used the concept of self - that is, how the public viewed themselves - to successfully market the game.
So, what does the history of Major League Baseball public relations say about public relations today? What does it demonstrate about the definition of public relations as the active participation in the social construction of meaning? It advances the notion of negotiated meaning. Public relations scholars such as Gabriel Vasquez.164 and Carl Botan and Francisco Soto165 have called public relations an unpredictable, ongoing process whereby an organization and its publics negotiate meaning. They argued that an organization can not impose its interpretation of the world on a public because the "public is the locus of the signification process," and meaning "is not an attribute of the message or in the domain of the message designer."166 More accurately, meaning is determined through an exchange between sender and receiver, organization and public. Rather than view public relations professionals as liaisons between an organization and its important audiences, or as someone who has a direct effect on how a public or publics define the organization, the symbolic interactionism perspective sees public relations practitioners as, Joye Gordon said, one of many possible "constructors of meaning."167 Many factors, such as organizational action, the external environment, and a person's self-perception, can have an impact on how an individual accepts a message or image.
Ultimately, sociologist Thomas Regan said, meaning is derived from a variety of agents and stimuli, as well as from a mass of joint actions accomplished through various processes and in numerous contexts of negotiation.168 In this view, communication is a process whereby people in groups, using the tools provided by their culture, create collective representations of reality. Public relations practitioners can help shape the symbolic interactional process in mass media and public discourse on terms favorable to their organizations. They can negotiate the desired meaning of an organization using persuasion, and in this viewpoint, Gordon said, "Persuasion is recast as a naturally occurring and ongoing phenomena of social interaction."169 The purpose of public relations, then, according to the symbolic interactionism worldview and this MLB public relations case study, is to proactively negotiate reality; that is, to persuade select elements of society after understanding how they view themselves and their social worlds - to see organizations or individuals within the desired frame.
The articles and columns were studied to determine if the language the journalists used was slanted toward management's desired meaning of the game and its administration. Typically, the adjectives and other descriptors the journalists used to describe the industry and the events surrounding it established a slant.
Recognizing how the MLB enterprise used public relations to communicate with key audiences contributed to a greater understanding of how and why the professional baseball industry developed as it did, as well as offered insights into the symbolic interactionism-driven definition of public relations.
As the industry and its member clubs increased in size in terms of profits and number of employees, baseball's leadership became further removed from the fans and sportswriters, and therefore public relations became necessary to communicate with these key audiences.
...Reporters tended to be accommodating and agreeable, to write stories that would not anger players or club officials, and in this way keep the channels of communication open.
In the decade following the NL's creation, tensions boiled between management and labor until the players formed a union, the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players, in 1885.
The Brotherhood War demonstrated that the owners had an audience eager to hear the message that baseball was a democratic game that represented the best of American ideals, and the owners had a convenient vehicle in the sporting pages to disseminate such messages.
Some owners provided the press with easy access to tickets, as well as free food and drink. Comiskey led the industry in press generosity; he built a special press dining room in Comiskey Park, complete with fine food and drink. In return, the press praised Comiskey.
A new, stern commissioner helped guarantee that baseball would remain clean of gambling influences and thus was once again worthy of representing the best of American ideals such as competition and fair play. And, the service bureau made it easier, for sportswriters to obtain information to help distribute the industry's messages.
MLB not only engaged in new ways of promoting the game to spur attendance, but fundamentally changed the way the game was presented as well. Night basehall and broadcasting the game on radio slowly gained acceptance.
Symbolic interactionists suggest that people interpret their environment by assigning meanings to things and that symbols help in these definitions. Baseball's centennial resonated so strongly with 1930s Americans because many were seeking a place in society in light of economic hardship. Many Americans felt shame and fear at their economic plight, creating a need to reorder the world according to a more rational scheme of things. This led to a search for an American way of life that would overcome these feelings of apprehension by enabling one to belong.
While the social world is composed of material and objective features, what distinguishes humans, according to symbolic interactionists, is their extensive and creative use of communication through symbols. By 1951, MLB had become seemingly impervious to government intervention into its operations because the game of baseball had become entrenched as a symbol of American ideals.
The Vietnam War and Watergate depleted the confidence between large organizations and the press. Some sports reporters mirrored this broader movement as they moved away from cheerleading to more objective writing. Thus, while some sportswriters agreed with and reinforced the messages the owners disseminated during the labor disputes, others questioned owner assertions.
For symbolic interactionists, the meaning of a thing - such as the game and industry of baseball - is continuously negotiated through a process of interaction in which its symbolic significance is formed and reformed. This meaning is negotiated through a process of interpretation in which the significance of a thing is reviewed in the light of existing understandings and current interpretations of the context in which the thing is situated.
The environment surrounding the industry also had an impact on how the game was perceived. But, it is not just the political or economic environment that affects an individual; of more importance is how an individual defines the existing environment.
So, what does the history of Major League Baseball public relations say about public relations today? What does it demonstrate about the definition of public relations as the active participation in the social construction of meaning? It advances the notion of negotiated meaning.
The purpose of public relations, then, according to the symbolic interactionism worldview and this MLB public relations case study, is to proactively negotiate reality; that is, to persuade select elements of society after understanding how they view themselves and their social worlds to see organizations or individuals within the desired frame.
1. Albert Spalding, America's National Game: Historic Facts Concerning the Beginning, Evolution, Development and Popularity of Base Ball (San Francisco, Calif.: Halo Books, 1991), 210.
2. Henry Chadwick, Spalding's Base Ball Guide and Official League Book for 1885, 96.
3. For works concentrating on MLB labor relations, see, e.g. John Holyar, Lords of the Realm: The Real History of Baseball (New York: Villard Books, 1994); and Lee Lowenfish, The Imperfect Diamond: A History of Baseball's Labor Wars, rev. ed. (New York: Da Capo Press, 1991).
For works dealing with MLB political relations, see, e.g. Jesse W. Markham and Paul V. Teplitz, Baseball Economics and Public Policy (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1981); and Steven A. Riess, Touching Base: Professional Baseball and American Culture in the Progressive Era (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980).
For works on MLB officials, see, e.g. Jerome Holtzman, The Commissioners: Baseball's Midlife Crisis (New York: Andrews McMcel, 1998); and David Pietrusza, Judge and Jury: The Life and Times of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis (South Bend, Ind.: Diamond Communications, 1998).
4. Karen S. Miller, "U.S. Public Relations History: Knowledge and Limitations," Communications Yearbook 23 (2900): 381-420.
5. See, e.g., L. L. L Golden, Only by Public Consent: American Corporations Search for Favorable Opinion (New York: Basic Books, 1908); Marvin N. Olasky, "The development of corporate public relations, 1850-1930," Journalism Monographs 102 (April 1987): and Richard S. Tedlow, Keeping the Corporate Image: Public Relations and Business, 1900-3950 (Greenwich, Conn.: JAI Press, 1979).
6. Scott M. Cutlip, Allen H. Center, and Glen L. Broom, Effective Public Relations, 7th ed. (Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, 1994), 6.
7. Rex Harlow, "Building a Public Relations Definition," Public Relations Review 2 (1976): 36.
8. Doug Newsom, Judy Vanslyke Turk, and Dean Kruckeberg, This Is PR: The Realities of Public Relations, 6th ed. (Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1996), 4.
9. For variations on the definition of PR as a relationship-building, management function, see, e.g. Cutlip, Center and Broom, Effective Public Relations, 6; James Grunig and Todd Hunt, Managing Public Relations (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1984), 6; Dennis L. Wilcox, Phillip H. Ault, and Warren K. Agee, Public Relations: Strategies and Tactics, 5th ed. (New York: Longman, 1998), 8; and Harlow, "Building a Public Relations Definition," Public Relations Review, 16.
10. Joye C. Gordon, "Interpreting Definitions of Public Relations: Self Assessment and a Symbolic Interactionism-Based Alternative," Public Relations Review 23 (Spring 1997): 57-06.
11. John J. Macionis, Sociology (Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, 1991), 20.
12. George Herbert Mead, Mind, Self, and Society from the Standpoint of a Social Behaviorist (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1934).
14. Herbert Blumer, "Collective Behavior," in Alfred M. Lee, ed., New Outline of the Principles of Sociology (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1951), 191.
15. Mead, Mind, Self, and Society, 257.
16. Charles C. Alexander, Our Game: An American Baseball History (New York: Holt, 1991); Bill James, The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract (New York: Villard Books, 1988); Benjamin G. Rader, American Sports: From the Age of Folk Games to the Age of Spectators (Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, 1983); Harold Seymour, Baseball: The Early Years (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1960); David Quentin Voigt, American Baseball: From Gentlemen's Sport to the Commissioner System (University Park: Penn State University Press, 1983); and David Quentin Voigt, American Baseball: From the Commissioners to Continental Expansion_(University Park: Penn State University Press, 1983).
17. "The Baseball Scandal," Nation 111 (13 October 1920): 396.
18. Tedlow, Keeping the Corporate Image.
19. J. A. R. Pimlott, Public Relations and the American Democracy (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1951), 235-236.
20. Fred Lieb noted that there were "no public relations men [in 1909], either with the major leagues or with the ... teams." In Lieb, Baseball As I Have Known It (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, Inc., 1977), 12. Harold Seymour noted that the owner, treasurer, road secretary, business manager for concessions and advertising, and team manager usually comprised the front office. In Seymour, Baseball: The Golden Age. According to section 26 of the American Association constitution, the president had a publicity role, including issuing "all official notices, and attend[ing] to the necessary correspondence." In "Constitution of the American Association of Base Ball Clubs of 1890," Reach's Official American Association Base Ball Guide, 1890, 116.
21. For those that argue that the "distance" between top management and its key constituents led to PR's development, see especially Pimlott, Public Relations and the American Democracy. See also Alex Carey, Taking the Risk out of Democracy: Corporate Propaganda Versus Freedom and Liberty (Champagne: University of Illinois, 1997); Marvin Olasky, Corporate Public Relations: A New Historical Perspective (Hillsdale, N. J.: Erlbaum, 1987); and Alan R. Raucher, Public Relations and Business, 1900-1929 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1968).
22. Spink, "Why Not? It's Worth It," The Sporting News, 26 October 1922, 4.
23. Jesse Berrett, "Diamonds for Sale: Promoting Baseball During the Great Depression," in Peter Levine, ed., Baseball History 4: An Annual of Original Baseball Research (Westport, Conn.: Mercker, 1991); and "Barnard Opens Bureau to Tell Who's Who Among Rookies," New York Times, 12 January 1928, 33.
24. The person was Eugene Karst, who was hired in 1931 as "Director of Information." See Karst File, National Baseball Hall of Fame Library (hereafter referred to as NBHFL); and Gene Karst, "The Cardinals' First Publicity Man," St. Louis's Favorite Sport (Society of American Baseball Research, 1992), 52-57.
25. These professionals were Boston Braves Director of Public Relations William H. Sullivan, Jr.; Brooklyn Dodgers Traveling secretary-Director of Publicity and Public Relations Harold Parrott; Chicago Cubs Director of Public Relations Cliff Jaffe; Cincinnati Reds Publicity Director Dave Grote; New York Giants Publicity Director Garry Schumacher; Philadelphia Phillies Director of Public Relations Nathan Alexander; Pittsburgh Pirates Publicity Director James J. Long; and St. Louis Cardinals Director of Public Relations James Toomey. See The Sporting News Official Baseball Guide, 1951, 46-48.
26. The AL team public relations practitioners were Boston Red Sox Public Relations Director Larry Woodall; Chicago White Sox Director of Press and Promotions Edwin G. Short; Cleveland Indians Publicity Director Marshall C. Samuel; Detroit Tigers Public Relations Director Edward T. Fitzgerald; New York Yankees Press and Promotions Director Arthur E. Patterson; and Philadelphia Athletics Public Relations Director Richard S. Armstrong. The St. Louis Browns and the Washington Senators did not list a PR person. See The Sporting News Official Baseball Guide, 1951, 5-8.
27. Letter from Warren C. Giles, president of the NL, to John McHale, president, Milwaukee Braves, 9 January 1963, Warren Giles file, Garry Herrmann papers, NBHFL.
28. Leonard Koppett, "Eckert's Appointment to Bring Radical Changes in Baseball Administration," New York Times, 18 November 1965.
29. "A Cabinet for the Commissioner," The Sporting News, 6 November 1965, Eckert File, NBHFL.
30. John Underwood, "Progress Report on the Unknown Soldier," Sports Illustrated, 4 April 1966, 41.
31. "MLB Public Relations Department," Major League Baseball Media Information Directory (New York: Major League Baseball Public Relations Department, 1999), 9.
32. Len Sanderson noted that for MLB "public relations" equaled "media relations," and "promotions" meant "marketing." Interview with Len Sanderson, president of Eisner Sanderson, public relations agency of record for Major League Baseball, telephone interview by author, 16 March 2000. See also Peggy Beck who noted that in the nineties "public relations" became two areas at the club level, "media relations" and "community relations." in Beck, "Evolution of a Sports Communications Tool: A 45-Year History of Cleveland Indians' Media Guides," Society of American Baseball Research Holdings, 1995, 3.
33. Games included Lawson's Patent Base Ball Playing Cards, 1884, made by Lawson Card Company; Zimmer's Base Ball Game, 1893, made by McLoughlin Brothers Company; Home Base Ball Game, 1897, made by McLoughlin Brothers Company. Also, during the late 1800s tobacco companies offered baseball cards to induce people to buy their product.
34. David Q. Voigt, American Baseball (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1966), 155-56.
35. By 1870, Chadwick had written in annual guides, such as Chadwick's Base Ball Manual, Beadle's Dime Base Ball Player, De Witt's Base Ball Guide. See "Henry Chadwick, the 'Father of Baseball,' Also Grand Dad of Diamond Chroncilors," The Sporting News, 21 May 1936, 8.
36. "The Grand Laugh: That's What Spalding and His Fakirs Are Getting," The Sporting News, 2 February 1889, 3.
37. Susan Greendorfer, "Sport and the Mass Media: General Overview," Arena Review 7 (1983): 1-6.
38. Eldon E. Snyder and Elmer A. Spreitzer, Social Aspects of Sport (Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice Hall, 1983).
39. Janet Lever and Stanton Wheeler, "The Chicago Tribune Sportspage: 1900-1950," Sociology of Sport Journal 1 (1984): 299-301.
40. Seymour, Baseball: The Golden Age, 98.
41. Frank Luther Mott, American Journalism (New York: Macmillan, 1950), 579.
42. Synder & Spreitzer, Social Aspects of Sport, 257.
43. Will Irwin, "The American Newspaper," Collier's (21 January 1911): 15-18; Frank Lane editorial, Baseball Magazine, March 1909, 30; October 1910, 67-70 (NOTE: Frank Lane did not give a title to his editorials); Riess, Touching Base, 13-14, 39; "American Games," Living Age 281 (18 April 1914): 185-87.
44. It is also important to note that baseball emerged al a time when Americans spent more money on recreational pursuits than in previous decades. From 1875 to 1918, working class families increased the proportion of their income spent on items other than food, clothing, and shelter from under ten percent to about twenty-five. Richard Butsch, ed., For Fun and Profit: The Transformation of Leisure into Consumption (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990), 14.
45. A. G. Spalding, "Base-Ball," Cosmopolitan Magazine, 1890, 50.
46. Henry Chadwick, The Ball Players Chronicle: A Weekly Journal Devoted to the Interests of the American Game of Base Ball and Kindred Sports of the Field (New York: Thompson & Pearson, 6 June 1867).
47. Thierry C. Parchant and Ian I. Mitroff, Transforming the Crisis-Prone Organization (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1992), 12.
48. A more detailed assessment of the newspaper coverage examined in this case appears in William B. Anderson, "Does the Cheerleading Ever Stop?: Major League Baseball and Sports Journalism," Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 78 (Summer 2001): 339-366.
49. The reserve clause allowed a team to renew a player's contract for one year unilaterally upon its expiration, even if the player refused to re-sign with the team. Because the new contract would also include a reserve clause, players essentially could not seek employment with other teams; those that did, found themselves permanently barred from the sport. Thus, players remained bound to their original team, absent retirement or the team's decision to trade them or release them from their contracts.
50. Spalding, America's National Game, 285.
51. Peter Levine, A.G. Spalding and the Rise of Baseball: The Promise of American Sport (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), xiii, 40.
52. Gabriel Kolko, The Triumph of Conservatism: A Re-Interpretation of American History, 1900-1916 (New York: Free Press, 1963).
53. Spalding said he would "conflict with the Players' ...in every way possible." in "A Fight To The Finish," The Sporting News, 29 March 1890, 1. For NL/PL court cases, see, e.g., Metropolitan Exhibition Go. v. Ward, 9 NYS 779 (NY Sup. Ct. 1890).
54. Spalding, America's National Game, 285.
55. Henry Chadwick, "Address to the Public," Spalding's Official Base Ball Guide for 1890, 28.
56. Spalding, America's National Game, 173.
57. Henry Chadwick, "Baseball: The Issue of the Day: What the Veteran Chadwick Thinks of the Movement of the Brotherhood," Sporting Life, 13 November 1889, 3.
58. Until the PL offered three-year player contracts, most contracts were one year in length. O. P. Caylor, "Baseball's Contribution to the Economy," Harper's Weekly, 31 May 1890, Players League File, NBHFL. Spalding dissolved the New York Sporting Times after its usefulness ended in 1890.
59. Henry Chadwick, "Practical Working of the Reserve Rule," Spalding's Official Base Ball Guide, 1890, 18. Italics in original text.
60. "Base Ball," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 7 May 1890, Spalding File, NBHFL.
61. "Brooklyn Pleasures," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 6 October 1890, Spalding File, NBHFL.
62. "The Season of 1890," Reach's Official American Association Base Ball Guide, 1891, 3.
63. Chadwick, "Professional Baseball," Spalding's Official Base Ball Guide, 1891, 13.
64. Signed by Thomas Leffield, Richard Granstan, and Henry Bleacher in Henry Chadwick, "Tough Nuts to Crack," unidentified newspaper, 25 November 1889, Henry Chadwick Scrapbooks, NBHFL.
65. Though attendance figures from 1890 are unreliable, most historians agree that the Players League outdrew the National League throughout the season. One estimate found the final attendance to be 913,000 to 853,000. See Lowenfish, The Imperfect Diamond, 45.
66. Financially, both leagues lost money in 1890, with estimated losses in the National League ranging anywhere between $300,000 and $500,000, while the PL had a total deficit of $340,000, with $215,000 spent on plants and equipment, leaving operational losses of $125,000. Seymour, Baseball: The Early Years, 238.
67. "The Centre of the War: Some Facts About the Scoring in New York - How Newspaper Reporters Are Coerced Through League Influence and How Papers Are Manipulated," Sporting Life, 7 June 1890, 5.
68. "The Reasons For It," The Sporting News, 8 November 1890, 4.
69. Francis Richter, "The Brotherhood's Secession - Its Status and Effects," Sporting Life, 13 November 1889, 4.
70. Herbert Blumer, Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method (Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, 1969).
71. Judith R. Blau, ed., Blackwell Companion to Sociology (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2001), 224.
72. Hugh Fullerton, "St. Louis Gambler Was Pay-Off Man in World Series 'Fixing' Episode," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 29 September 1920.
73. Frank Lane editorial, Baseball Magazine, February 1920, 519.
74. "Revival of Series Scandal Emphasized Need of Inquiry," The Sporting News, 25 December 1919, 1.
75. Eliot Asinof, Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series (New York: Holt, 1963), 21.
76. "Confesses Sox Ball Plot," Chicago Tribune, 28 September 1920 - discusses the gambler's - Bill Maharg - story in a "Philadelphia publication." "Two Sox Confess," Chicago Tribune, 29 September 1920 - describes the confessions of Ed Cicotte and later Joe Jackson.
77. James P. Sinnett of the New York Evening Mail and the Kansas City Times editor as cited in "The Flaw in the Diamond," Literary Digest 67 (9 October 1920): 12-13.
78. "The Baseball Scandal," Nation 111 (13 October 1920): 396.
79. Pietrusza, Judge and Jury. For the press reaction to Landis' appointment, see, e.g. "One Critic Who Says Public Doesn't Care," The Sporting News, 28 October 1920, 5; "Judge Landis Must Be Careful of Step," The Sporting News, 18 November 1920, 1; Frank Lane editorial, Baseball Magazine, January 1921, 363; and "Reichow, The Original Landis Man, Pays Tribute to His Choice," The Sporting News, 18 November 1920, 1.
80. For details of the trial, see Joe Vila, "Shifty As Attell Is He Can Hardly Side Step This One," The Sporting News, 2 June 1921, 1; Joe Vila, "Mystery of the Two Attells Should Be Solved This Week," The Sporting News, 9 June 1921, 1; Joe Vila, "Joe Vila Done With Courts In Baseball," The Sporting News, 16 June 1921, 1; and Joe Vila, "Action of Chicago Prosecutor Bad News for Conspirators," The Sporting News, 23 June 1921, 1.
81. H. A. Singer, "Some Saving Humor in Black Sox Case," The Sporting News, 11 August 1921, 1.
82. Spink, "Jury verdict puts baseball on its own," The Sporting News, 11 August 1921, 4.
83. See, e.g. "Baseball Leaders Won't Let White Sox Return to the Game," New York Times, 4 August 1921, 1; and "Landis Virtually Bans Acquitted Men From Game," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 3 August 1921, 1.
84. The Chicago Tribune editor was Harvey T. Woodruff, who was quoted in John Foster, "The Writers," Spalding's Official Base Ball Guide, 1921, 8.
85. After the Weaver decision only two known attempts to fix games took place at the major league level: the Phil Douglas case of 1922 and the Jimmy O'Connell affair of 1924. In both cases teammates of Douglas and O'Connell turned them in to baseball authorities. See Pietrusza, fudge and Jury.
86. Herbert Blumer in Judith R. Blau, ed., Blackwell Companion to Sociology (Maiden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2001), 180.
87. A more detailed examination of this case appears in William B. Anderson, "The 1939 Major League Baseball Centennial Celebration: How Steve Hannagan & Associates Helped Tie Business to Americana," Public Relations Preview (in press).
88. American Society of Newspaper Editors, Problems of Journalism: Proceedings of the Seventh Annual Meeting_(Washington, D.C., 1929), 26.
90. The depression hurt attendance. Actual MLB attendance in 1929 was 9,588,183; in 1932, 6,974,566; in 1933, 6,089,031; and in 1940, 9,823,484. See John Thorn and Pete Palmer, eds., Total Baseball: The Official Encyclopedia of Major League Baseball (New York: Viking, 1997), 103.
91. J. G. Taylor Spink, "A Few Frills Don't Hurt," The Sporting News, 25 May 1933, 4.
92. J. G. Taylor Spink, "Casual Comment," The Sporting News, 5 May 1932, 4.
93. Anton Grobani, Guide to Baseball Literature (Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1975), 131; Chicago Cubs News (1936), 1-4; "Big League Baseball," Fortune (August 1937), 112; Baseball Magazine, (November 1930), 561 and (December 1934), 295; and Spalding's Guide (1933), 13, Promotions File, NBHFL.
94. For more on the relationship between MLB and night baseball, see, e.g. Charles C. Alexander, Our Game: An American Baseball History (New York: Holt, 1991); Bill James, The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract (New York: Villard Books, 1988); and Voigt, American Baseball.
For more on the relationship between radio and MLB, see, e.g. Red Barber, The Broadcasters (New York: Dial Press, 1970); and Bruce Garrison with Mark Sabljak, Sports Reporting (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1993).
95. Hartwell, "Prince of Press Agents," Collier's, 75-81.
96. Al Stoughton, Baseball's 100th Birthday, Address before the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, NBHFL, 6 December 1938.
97. For copies of the brochures see the Alexander Cleland Collection, NBHFL. National Baseball Centennial Commission, "How to Conduct a High School Baseball Day or Amateur Baseball Day," 1939; National Baseball Centennial Commission, "Public Baseball Clinic," 1939; National Baseball Centennial Commission, "How to Conduct Invitational Baseball Tournaments," 1939.
98. National Baseball Centennial Commission, "Play Ball America,"1939, Alexander Cleland Collection, NBHFL.
99. Al Stoughton to Steve Hannagan, 23 April 1939 and 5 June 1939, Alexander Cleland Collection, NBHFL.
100. Steve Hannagan to the newspapers, 17 January 1939, Alexander Cleland Collection, NBHFL. New York Journal and American, 30 January 1939; Baseball Magazine, June 1939; Sporting News Record Book for 1939; and "Baseball's Centennial: Cooperstown Pageant Venerates Doubleday, It's Founder," Newsweek, 19 June 1939, 36-37, 39.
101. For description of ceremonies, see "Calvacade Depicts Glory of Game at Shrine Dedication," The Sporting News, 15 June 1939, 1, 6; Fred Lieb, "Exhibition, Staged on Historic Donbleday Field," The Sporting News, 22 June 1939, 5; and "Cavalcade Sidelights," The Sporting News, 22 June 1939, 5.
102. Al Stoughton, "Centennial Celebration at Cooperstown," Spalding-Reach Official Base Ball Guide, 1940, 18.
103. "Centennial Year Gives Game Greatest Season in History: Heightened Interest Brings out Record Crowds," The Sporting News, 4 January 1940, 6.
104. J. G. Taylor Spink, "Shall They Advertise?" The Sporting News, 9 March 1933, 4.
105. Letter from Alexander Cleland to Judge Landis, 12 December 1938, Alexander Cleland Collection, NBHFL.
106. "President on the Game," The Sporting News, 1 June 1939, 9.
107. J. G. Taylor Spink, "Calvacade of Baseball," The Sporting News, 8 June 1939, 4.
108. J.G. Taylor Spink, "Popularity" The Sporting News, 4 February 1932, 4.
109. Joel M. Charon, Symbolic Interactionism: An Introduction, An Interpretation, An Integration (Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice Hall, 1995).
110. Warren Susman, Culture and Commitment, 1929-1945 (New York: George Braziller, Inc., 1973), 1-26.
111. Roland Marchand, Creating the Corporate Soul: The Rise of Public Relations and Corporate Imagery in American Big Business (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998).
112. Major League Baseball player contract, P 10(a).
113. Gardella's two cases: Gardella v. Chandler, 79 F. Supp. 260 (S.D. N.Y. 1948); Gardella v. Chandler, 172 F. 2d 402 (2d Cir. 1949).
114. Dan Daniel, "Inquiry to lift veil on game's finances," The Sporting News, 4 July 1951, 1.
116. "California Mist - It's Really A Fog," The Sporting News, 8 August 1951, 12.
117. J. Roy Stockton of St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the editor of the New York Daily News as cited in The Sporting News, "Quotes," 15 August 1951, 6.
118. Jack Walsh, "Congress Will Open Hearings on Baseball Reserve Clause," Washington Post, 29 July 1951.
119. J. Roy Stockton of St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Dan Daniel of the New York World-Telegram and Sun cited in "Quotes," The Sporting News, 6.
120. Roger I. Abrams, Legal Bases: Baseball and the Law (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998), 61.
121. Hearings Before the Subcommittee on the Study of Monopoly Power, House of Representatives, 82nd Congress, First session, Part 6, Organized Baseball (1951), 3 (Hereafter referred to as The Celler Report).
122. The Celler Report, 20.
123. The Celler Report, 3, 40.
124. The Celler Report, 257.
125. Jack Walsh, "Rep. Keating Cools on Probe of Baseball with World Afire," Washington Post, 3 August 1951.
126. "Wrigley Opposes Baseball Anti-Trust 'Blanket Exemption'," New York Times, 18 October 1951, 35.
127. Shirley Povich, "This Morning," Washington Post, 31 July 1951, 13.
128. Daniel, "Inquiry to lift veil on game's finances," The Sporting News, 1.
129. The Celler Report, 43. Italics added by author.
130. The Celler Report, 33-34.
131. See H.R. Rep. 2002, 82d. Cong., 2d. Sess. 228-32 (1952); and Arthur Daley, "Hands Off," New York Times, May 27, 1952.
132. Neil MacKinnon, Symbolic Interaction as Affect Control (New York: SUNY Press, 1994).
133. A more detailed assessment of the newspaper coverage examined in this case appears in Anderson, "Does the Cheerleading Ever Stop?," Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly.
134. Although a non-strike pledge had been given, in 1945, 4,750 strikes included 3,470,000 workers and 38,000,000 worker days lost - exceeding the prewar high of 28,400,000 days in 1937. As the war ended, labor anticipated wage increases to mirror the cost of living increases. The inevitable clash of labor/management led to 4,630 strikes involving 4,900,000 workers and the loss of 119,800,000 worker days between August 1945 and August 1946. See Philip Taft, Organized Labor in American History (New York: Harper & Row, 1964), 546-62.
135. In between 1890 and 1953, the players organized the League Protective Players Association in 1900, which failed after two years due to player apathy. From 1912 to 1918, players could join the Baseball Players' Fraternity, but it dissolved due to indifference. The players remained without a union until 1946, when Robert Murphy formed the American Baseball Guild, which failed when the owners met the players' demands. For more detail, see Lowenfish, The Imperfect Diamond.
136. For more on the 1975 arbitration hearing, see, e.g. James B. Dworkin, Owners versus Players: Baseball and Collective Bargaining (Boston: Auburn House Pub. Co., 1981); Marvin Miller, A Whole Different Ball Game: The Sport and Business of Baseball (Secaucus, N. J.: Carol Pub. Group, 1991); and Thomas J. Hopkins, "Arbitration: A Major League Effect on Players' Salaries," 2 Seton Hall Journal Sport Law 301, 303 (1992): 308, 309, 370.
137. San Diego Padres General Manager Peter Bavasi as quoted in "Players Likely to Reject 'Final' Offer," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 17 March 1976.
138. Owners lifted the lockout when they realized they were bringing players closer together, rather than driving them apart, as had been hoped. Ultimately, owners and players agreed to preserve some of what owners believed was the prior reserve system. The new Basic Agreement established a system of free agency in which any player with six years experience in the major leagues was eligible to become a free agent, and teams would bid for free agents in reverse order of finish. With respect to salary arbitration, any player with at least two years experience, who was otherwise ineligible for free agency, could invoke salary arbitration. For more on the 1976 lockout, see National & American League Prof. Baseball Clubs v. Major League Baseball Players' Assn., 66 Lab. Arb. 101 (1976). See also Hopkins, "Arbitration: A Major League Effect on Players' Salaries," Seton Hall Journal of Sports Law, 308-09; and Gary D. Hailey & Douglas R. Pappas, "Baseball and the Law," in John Thorn & Pete Palmer, eds., Total Baseball (New York: Viking, 1994), 605.
139. Paul Staudohar, "Player Salary Issues in Major League Baseball," Arbitration Journal 33 (1978): 18.
140. John Helyar, Lords of the Realm: The Real History of Baseball (New York: Villard Books, 1994), 221.
141. Jack Lang, "Baseball Reporting," Total Baseball, 3rd ed. (New York: HarperPerennial, 1993), 507-512. For more on changes in journalism and sports coverage during this era, see Michael Schudson, Discovering the News: A Social History of American Newspapers (New York: Basic Books, 1978); and David Voigt, "From Chadwick to the Chipmunks," Journal of American Culture 7 (Fall 1984), 34.
142. Editorial, "Game Postponed," Chicago Tribune, 4 March 1976.
143. Red Smith, "Christmas Spirit," New York Times, 24 December 1975.
144. Editorial, "Don't Kill the Umpire," New York Times, 25 December 1975.
145. Atlanta Braves General Manager Paul Richards as quoted in Helyar, Lords of the Realm, 91.
146. Frank Mauthe, Sylmar, Calif., "Voice of the Fan," The Sporting News, 22 April 1972, 3.
147. Comments from bar owner Sam Rosenbloom. In Leo Zainea, "Fans Don't Like Baseball Squabble," Chicago Tribune, 17 March 1976.
148. Looney, "O.K., What's the Pitch," Sports Illustrated, 47.
149. Peter Bonventre, "Off the Reservation," Newsweek 87 (5 January 1976): 51.
150. Jeff Meyers, "Reserve Clause Brings Stability?" St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 5 March 1976.
151. Red Smith, "Wanted: New Ghostwriters," New York Times, 25 December 1975.
152. "TSN Respondents Favor Baseball Reserve Clause," The Sporting News, 28 February 1976, 2.
153. Kenneth M. Jennings, Swings and Misses: Moribund Labor Relations in Professional Baseball (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1997), 18.
154. Sheldon Stryker, Symbolic Interactionism: A Social Structural View (Menlo Park, Calif.: Benjamin/Cummings, 1980).
155. "Baseball Regains Some Popularity," unidentified publication, 22 January 1973. Public Opinion Polls File, NBHFL. In a Gallup poll taken just after the end of the 1973 baseball season, 32 percent of people interviewed named football as their favorite sport to watch on television; 24 percent said baseball; 9 percent said NBA.
In 1948, 17 percent of survey respondents had said football was their favorite sport to watch on television, while 39 percent had said baseball was their favorite. From 1961 to 1972, the numbers began to change as MLB went from having 34 percent say that baseball was their favorite sport to 21 percent, while the NFL rose from 21 to 36 percent.
156. Wendy Griswold, Cultures and Societies in a Changing World (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Pine Forge Press, 1994), 14.
157. Herbert Blumer, Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method, rev. ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986).
158. Herbert Blumer, "Symbolic Interaction," in Richard W. Budd and Brent D. Ruben, eds., Interdisciplinary Approaches to Human Communication (Rochelle Park, N. Y.: Hay-den, 1979), 150.
159. "Herbert Hoover," Baseball Almanac. Accessed 6 April 2001. Available online: http:// baseball-almanac. com/prz_qhh.shtml.
160. James B. Simpson, Sinipson's Contemporary Quotations (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1988).
161. Larry T. Reynolds, Symbolic Interactionism: Exposition and Critique (Dix Hills, N. Y.: General Hall, 1993).
162. Blumer, "Collective Behavior," 191.
163. Mead, Mind, Self, and Society.
164. Gabriel Vasquez, "Public Relations as Negotiation: An Issue Development Perspective," Journal of Public Relations Research 8 (1996): 57^sup -^77.
165. Carl H. Botan and Francisco Soto, "A Semiotic Approach to the Internal Functioning of Publics: Implications for Strategic Communication and Public Relations," Public Relations Review 24 (1998): 21-44.
166. Botan and Soto, "A Semiotic Approach to the Internal Functioning of Publics," Public Relations Review, 36-38.
167. Gordon, "Interpreting Definitions of Public Relations," Public Relations Review, 66.
168. Thomas G. Regan, "Bargaining and Governmental Directives: The Question of Limits to Negotiated Orders," Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology 23 (August 1986): 383-398.
169. Gordon, "Interpreting Definitions of Public Relations," Public Relations Review, 66.
BY THE ASSOCIATION FOR EDUCATION IN JOURNALISM AND MASS COMMUNICATION
The author is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Scranton. Dr. Anderson can be contacted by mail at St. Thomas Hall Room 460, Scranton, PA 18510-4592 or by email at email@example.com.…