From the Diamond to the Courtroom
Much of the history of baseball since the mid-20th century has unfolded in the courtroom rather than on the diamond. Club franchises fought for their right to move from one city to another and players fought for the right to become free agents after a certain length of time in the league. In Players had very little power to negotiate with owners until the Major League Baseball Players Association, a player union, was formed in 1966. In 1972, baseball players went on strike for 13 days to get a better pension plan for retired players. The threat of a strike loomed again in 1973 when players demanded the right to salary arbitration. The owners consented in the 11th hour and a strike was avoided.
It was an arbitrator who, in 1975, granted players the right to become free agents and move from one team to another after playing for a certain number of years. In 1981, the players were on strike again after owners tried to limit free agency. The strike lasted 50 days. Unfortunately, the labor disputes were not over. Owners locked players out in both 1976 and 1990. The players staged a two-day strike in 1985 and in 1994 the entire post season was cancelled when players and owners could not reach agreement on a salary cap.
Even when strikes and courtroom dramas drive fans away from the game, baseball players and games slowly draw them back. Fans are quick to join in watching and cheering on a record-setting streak. Such streaks include Hank Aaron’s quest to break Babe Ruth’s all-time homerun record in 1974, Pete Rose breaking Ty Cobb’s career hit record in 1985, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and later Barry Bonds setting season homerun records, and Cal Ripken, Jr., playing in 2,632 consecutive games
A Worldwide Pastime
From its somewhat cloudy official beginnings to today, baseball remains a truly unique sport that is played and watched throughout the world. Outside of the United States, baseball is most popular in Japan. Youth baseball is played around the globe. In 1940, Little League Baseball was founded and has it own World Series competition.
Baseball is one of the few sports that does not use a clock. Players and fans are able to let the game take its course without worrying about time running out on a heroic come-from-behind effort. The only thing that can stop a team is its opponent or its own errors. And until the final strike of the final inning, truly anything can happen.