Sports and Money in Baseball Part 2 Players' League and Ownerships

About the marriage of money and sports in the history of baseball, about the players' league and ownership.

Money and Sports: A History of the Marriage


The owners had a good thing going, until they started pushing the players too hard. As the 1880s ended they were trying to establish a sort of productivity scale for players, whereby each man would be graded on his playing from A to E, with salaries ranging in grades from $2,500 down to $1,500. In effect, this would have taken away the player's right to negotiate his salary with the only boss he was allowed to work for. Full-scale rebellion broke out. Under the leadership of their union, the National Brotherhood of Professional Players, the athletes set up their own league. The National League was decimated. Even by paying huge salaries, it could hold so few of its players that it had to fill almost every position with rookies. It became known as the sand-lot league. The American Association found itself in a similar position. The Players' League promptly managed to attract more fans than either of the old leagues. Not surprisingly, other capitalists, including those who owned the newspapers, did not like the idea of workers deserting a business and setting up their own. So the new league found it impossible to raise money. It could not get bank loans. More often than not, its games received no press coverage....Without financial backing from the banks, the players found it hard to stand up to cutthroat competition. In a year this most popular of the 3 leagues, comprised of almost all the top players, had folded. The American Association (which used to refer to the NL as "the rich man's league") went down shortly thereafter. The players had been beaten back. The rule of monopoly continued....


Throughout the sports industry, as in every other industry under capitalism, control is exercised, not by the consumers (fans), nor by the producers (players), but by the owners of capital. It is they who decide whether or not to stage their spectacles and when, where, and how to do so. Ownership gives them the power to dictate the complete development or non-development of the industry, the very life and working conditions of those (players) whose labor they buy, and the nature of the product they produce. And the basis of their decisions is 1st and foremost, personal profit. In this, sports owners are just like other capitalists (although some of them may, incidentally, be big sports fans on the side). However their loyalty to their capital will always surpass their loyalty to the team. If it did not they might quickly find themselves out of business. And there is a lot of money involved.

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