Baseball may be just a game on the field, but it's a a complex web of contracts and consolidations off of it; from the moment William Hulbert invoked the power of the legal system to unite a disparate group of clubs into the National League in 1876, the law and the game have turned into fascinating teammates. Abrams, the Dean of Rutgers University Law School and a Major League salary arbitrator, has produced an engaging episodic history of the connection--from Monte Ward's attempt to form the first union in the late 1800s to the labor wars of the '90s that made the sports page sound like the civil code. Along the way, he stops to examine Napolean Lajoie and the institution of the reserve clause, baseball's anti-trust exemption and Curt Flood's fight for free agency, Marvin Miller and modern collective bargaining, arbitration, collusion, and the Pete Rose scandal. Comprehensive and anecdotal, Legal Bases covers as much ground as a good shortstop and interprets complex arguments and issues with the clarity of a catcher's sign. The final verdict: Appealingly absorbing. --Jeff Silverman
From Publishers Weekly
As much as the purist might insist that the game itself is the thing, not the salaries, contracts and cost over-runs on new stadiums, a rounded knowledge of the game is incomplete without considering baseball as a business. As dean of Rutgers Law School, baseball salary arbitrator and sincere grassroots fan, few have Abrams qualifications for writing on baseball and the law. The book is organized around "nine men and one woman who played pivotal roles in its history. They constitute our 'All-Star Baseball Law Team.' " The "team" (apparently the 10th player is justified by the designated hitter rule) is chosen to illustrate important principles of baseball and law dating from the 19th century (John Montgomery Ward) through the reserve clause challenge (Curt Flood) to baseball's crimes (Pete Rose). Abrams claims that the importance of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis was too great to fit in just a chapter, but many readers will still wish for more on the man who shaped the business of baseball more than any other single individual. The book focuses almost entirely on the U.S. majors, though it would have been interesting to see more on international baseball or the minor leagues (e.g., on the recent Professional Baseball Agreement that dictates relations between minor and major league baseball or on minor league umpire Pam Postema). The writing is a bit dry and overly detailed, but the book will serve as a valuable reference for the ardent baseball student.
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