Sports and Money in Baseball Part 3 Monopoly and Ownerships

About the marriage of money and sports in the history of baseball, about monopolies and ownership.

Money and Sports: A History of the Marriage

Indeed, the 1st thing we notice about the sports industry is that it is very expensive to become an owner. When the 1st professional baseball league was formed in 1871 the entrance fee for a team was just $10. Five years later, when the National League was formed, the price of a franchise was just $100 plus players' salaries. By the mid-1960s, CBS had bought the New York Yankees for $15 million and later the Vancouver Canucks hockey team was purchased for $6 million. At these prices a situation is rapidly being created in which only corporations of substantial size, or syndicates of their executives, can raise the capital to buy a team. Under these conditions, a professional sports operation becomes little more than a cog in a giant corporate empire (or syndicate of interlocking directorates) and is run in the same way as the rest of the enterprise. "There's not much need, really, to document football's place in the great American free-enterprise system," wrote a columnist in the Toronto Telegram's Weekend Magazine. "All pro sports are run as efficiently, cold-bloodedly and greedily as any other big business with a lust for a buck." As elsewhere in the "game" of capitalist big business, we find boards of directors dictating from the top to their production managers who dictate to supervisors (coaches) dictating to workers (players). And the latter have been reduced to little more than pawns in a giant corporate machine concerned much more with profit than "play"....

MONOPOLY OWNERSHIP

One reason an aspiring sports magnate is willing to pay millions of dollars for a team is that the possession of a league franchise puts him in a monopolistic position in marketing his product in a particular city and hiring the players who will produce the product. The toleration by the dominant elements in society of such monopolistic agreements in restraint of a free-player market as the reserve and option clauses written into all major-league contracts reflects the usefulness of the sports industry in providing a profitable investment channel for their surplus capital, and even more importantly, for furthering the sort of competitive, work-hard, be-disciplined, produce-more, consume-more ideology our capitalists find so attractive. The laws governing sports, including especially the 1922 Supreme Court decision exempting baseball from the antitrust laws, arise out of both the economics of this capitalist industry and the place of sports production, including ideological indoctrination, in this society generally. Thus, the sports industry provides a graphic illustration of how, when the economic situation in a major industry violates the laws of capitalist society (in this case, the antitrust laws), the laws are reinterpreted to agree with the economic "realities" and not the other way around....

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