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Home BoB Documents 1900 - 1960 1953 - Toolson v New York Yankees

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1953 - Toolson v New York Yankees PDF Print E-mail
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1900 - 1960
Written by Court Ruling   
Monday, 29 November 1999 19:00

U.S. Supreme Court

TOOLSON v. NEW YORK YANKEES, 346 U.S. 356 (1953)

346 U.S. 356

No. 18.
Argued October 13, 1953.
Decided November 9, 1953.


The judgments in these cases are affirmed on the authority of Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore v. National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, 259 U.S. 200 , so far as that decision determines that Congress had no intention of including the business of baseball within the scope of the federal antitrust laws. Pp. 356-357.

200 F.2d 198, 202 F.2d 413, 428, affirmed.


[ Footnote * ] Together with No. 23, Kowalski v. Chandler, Commissioner of Baseball, et al., argued October 13-14, 1953, and No. 25, Corbett et al. v. Chandler, Commissioner of Baseball, et al., argued October 14, 1953, both on certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.


Howard C. Parke argued the cause for petitioner in No. 18. With him on the brief was Gene M. Harris.


Frederic A. Johnson argued the cause for petitioner in No. 23 and Seymour Martinson argued the cause for petitioners in No. 25. With them on the briefs were Maurice H. Koodish and Edward Martinson.


Norman S. Sterry argued the cause and filed a brief for respondents in No. 18.

Raymond T. Jackson argued the cause for respondents in Nos. 23 and 25. With him on the briefs were Benjamin F. Fiery and Louis F. Carroll.


Thomas Reed Powell filed a brief for the Boston American League Base Ball Company in No. 18, as amicus curiae, urging affirmance.







In 1952 the Subcommittee on Study of Monopoly Power, of the House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary, after extended hearings, issued a report dealing with organized baseball in relation to the Sherman Act. In that report it said:


"`Organized baseball' is a combination of approximately 380 separate baseball clubs, operating in 42 different States, the District of Columbia, Canada, Cuba, and Mexico . . . .

. . . . .


In the Federal Baseball Club case the Court did not state that even if the activities of organized baseball amounted to interstate trade or commerce those activities were exempt from the Sherman Act. The Court acted on its determination that the activities before it did not amount to interstate commerce. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in that case, in 1920, described a major league baseball game as "local in its beginning and in its end." 4 This Court stated that "The business is giving exhibitions of base ball, which are purely state affairs," and the transportation of players and equipment between states "is a mere incident . . . ." 5 The main thrust of the argument of counsel for organized baseball, both in the Court of Appeals and in this Court, was in support of that proposition. 6 Although counsel did argue that the activities of organized baseball, even if amounting to interstate commerce, did not violate the Sherman Act, 7 the Court significantly refrained from expressing its opinion on that issue.



The 1952 report of the Congressional Subcommittee previously mentioned also said:

"Under judicial interpretations of this constitutional provision [the commerce clause], the Congress has power to investigate, and pass legislation dealing with professional baseball, or more particularly `organized baseball,' if that business is, or affects, interstate commerce.

. . . . .




[ Footnote 1 ] Federal Baseball Club v. National League, 259 U.S. 200 .


[ Footnote 2 ] Compare Paul v. Virginia, 8 Wall. 168, and Hooper v. California, 155 U.S. 648 , with United States v. South-Eastern Underwriters Assn., 322 U.S. 533 , and Lorain Journal Co. v. United States, 342 U.S. 143 . See also, Times-Picayune Publishing Co. v. United States, 345 U.S. 594 ; United States v. National Assn. of Real Estate Boards, 339 U.S. 485 ; United States v. Crescent Amusement Co., 323 U.S. 173 ; American Medical Assn. v. United States, 317 U.S. 519 .


[ Footnote 3 ] H. R. Rep. No. 2002, 82d Cong., 2d Sess. 4, 5.


"The primary sources of revenue for baseball clubs are admissions, radio and television, and concessions. The following table indicates the combined revenue of the 16 major-league clubs from these sources for the years 1929, 1939, and 1950.

"Major league revenue

"[In thousands of dollars] --------------------------------------------------------------------- "Source of revenue 1929 1. 1939 1950 --------------------------------------------------------------------- Home games ................... 6,559.1 6,766.6 18,334.8 Road games ................... 2,221.4 2,320.2 4,517.8 Exhibition games ............. 422.6 515.7 911.5 Radio and television ......... 0 884.5 3,365.5 Concessions (net) ............ 582.8 850.3 2,936.3 Other ........................ 733.4 776.0 1,969.6 -------------------------------------- Gross receipts .......... 10,519.5 12,113.3 32,035.5 ---------------------------------------------------------------------


"1. Data unavailable for 2 clubs: Chicago, American League; and Pittsburgh, National League.

. . . . .

"The fastest-growing source of revenue for major league clubs is radio and television. Receipts from these media of interstate commerce were nonexistent in 1929. In 1939, 7.3 percent of the clubs' revenue came from this source; and in 1950, this share rose to 10.5 percent.


"Portrayed in absolute terms, the growing importance of radio and television becomes even more pronounced. Receipts rose from nothing in 1929 to $884,500 in 1939 and $3,365,500 in 1950. Reported income from primary radio and television contracts for 1951 indicate that this sharp increase is continuing. . . . To this must be added $110,000 for the sale of radio and television rights to the 1951 all-star game and $1,075,000 for the sale of similar rights to the 1951 world series." Id., at 5-6.


[ Footnote 4 ] National League v. Federal Baseball Club, 50 App. D.C. 165, 169, 269 F. 681, 685.


[ Footnote 5 ] 259 U.S., at 208 , 209.


[ Footnote 6 ] See brief for appellants in the Court of Appeals, pp. 45-67; brief for defendants in error in this Court, pp. 45-66.


[ Footnote 7 ] See brief for appellants in Court of Appeals, pp. 68-72; brief for defendants in error in this Court, pp. 66-72.


[ Footnote 8 ] Hart v. Keith Vaudeville Exchange, 262 U.S. 271, 274 , and see North American Co. v. S. E. C., 327 U.S. 686, 694 .


[ Footnote 9 ] In opposing approval of four exclusionary bills then pending, the Subcommittee did not take the stand that organized baseball and other comparable sports, although constituting interstate trade or commerce, already are exempt from the broad coverage of the Sherman Act. On the contrary, it said:



[ Footnote 10 ] "The reserve clause is popularly believed to be some provision in the player contract which gives to the club in organized baseball which first signs a player a continuing and exclusive right to his services. Commissioner Frick testified that this popular understanding was essentially correct. He pointed out, however, that the reserve clause is not merely a provision in the contract, but also incorporates a reticulated system of rules and regulations which enable, indeed require, the entire baseball organization to respect and enforce each club's exclusive and continuous right to the services of its players." H. R. Rep. No. 2002, 82d Cong., 2d Sess. 111. See also, Section VII, The Reserve Clause, id., at 111-139, and Gardella v. Chandler, 172 F.2d 402.


In No. 18 the following specific allegations appear and those in No. 23 are comparable:



"That the Defendants, and each of them, have entered into or agreed to be bound by a contract in the restraint of Interstate Commerce; that said contract is designated as the Major-Minor League Agreement, dated December 6, 1946, and provides in effect that:


"1. All players' contracts in the Major Leagues shall be of one form and that all players' contracts in the Minor Leagues shall be of one form.


"2. That all players' contracts in any league must provide that the Club or any assignee thereof shall have the option to renew the player's contract each year and that the player shall not play for any other club but the club with which he has a contract or the assignee thereof.



"4. That the player shall be bound by any assignment of his contract by the club, and that his remuneration shall be the same as that usually paid by the assignee club to other players of like ability.


"5. That there shall be no negotiations between a player and any other club from the one which he is under contract or reservation respecting employment either present or prospective unless the Club with which the player is connected shall have in writing expressly authorized such negotiations prior to their commencement.


"6. That in the case of Major League players, the Commissioner of Baseball and in the case of Minor League players, the President of the National Association, may determine that the best interests of the game require a player to be declared ineligible and, after such declaration, no club shall be permitted to employ him unless he shall have been reinstated from the ineligible list.


"7. That an ineligible player whose name is omitted from a reserve list shall not thereby be rendered eligible for service unless and until he has applied for and been granted reinstatement.


"8. That any player who violates his contract or reservation, or who participates in a game with or against a club containing or controlled by ineligible players or a player under indictment for conduct detrimental to the good repute of professional baseball, shall be considered an ineligible player and placed on the ineligible list.


"9. That an ineligible player must be reinstated before he may be released from his contract.


"10. That clubs shall not tender contracts to ineligible players until they are reinstated.


"11. That no club may release unconditionally an ineligible player unless such player is first reinstated from the ineligible list to the active list.

. . . . .




The complaint also contains a separate cause of action alleging that the defendants, by virtue of their agreements, have entered into a combination and conspiracy in the restraint of trade or commerce among the several states, and another cause of action alleging that the defendants have, by their agreements, combined to monopolize professional baseball in the United States.

[ Footnote 11 ] E. g., Congress has expressly exempted certain specific activities from the Sherman Act, as in 6 of the Clayton Act, 38 Stat. 731, 15 U.S.C. 17 (labor organizations), in the Capper-Volstead Act, 42 Stat. 388-389, 7 U.S.C. 291, 292 (farm cooperatives), and in the McCarran-Ferguson Act, 59 Stat. 34, 61 Stat. 448, 15 U.S.C. (Supp. V) 1013 (insurance). And see Apex Hosiery Co. v. Leader, 310 U.S. 469, 501 , 512. [346 U.S. 356, 366] 


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