Hearings before the Antitrust Subcommittee,
Committee on the Judiciary, H of R,
Part 1, 2, & 3,
Serial No. 8.
August 1, 7, 8, 1957.
Robin Roberts, Edward Yost, Jerry Coleman
Mr. Singman (assistant counsel to Chairman Cellar): First, do you believe that the reserve clause as it is today is essential to keep baseball operating the way it is?
Robin Roberts (Phillies, NL Rep., BPA): I would say that a reserve clause is necessary. Whether it can be altered or adjusted in any way, I don't know. It has never been tried.
Edward Yost (AL Rep. BPA): I feel the same way. Unless you can come up with some other workable solution, I don't think that the game can continue to operate without the reserve clause.
Jerry Coleman (NY Yankees, AL Rep., BPA): Because I have heard no other forms or no other policy mentioned by people who have been thinking of this, I say the reserve clause is necessary as such.
Mr. Singman: Do you think, then, the players are generally satisfied with the reserve clause?
Mr. Yost: Yes, I do.
Mr. Roberts: I think most of them are and those that aren't feel there isn't anything they can do with it.
Mr. Coleman. I have had no complaints administered to as far as the reserve clause.
Hearings Before the Antitrust Subcommittee, Committee on the Judiciary,
H of R, 85th Cong., 1st Sess.
Serial No. 8.
August 1, 7, 8, 1957.
Mr. Singman: Then, do you now believe that the reserve clause should be left exactly the way it is today?
Mr. Musial: Yes, sir; exactly.
Mr. Singman: You think no changes could be made to make it fairer for the player?
Mr. Musial: I don’t think so. I've studied this thing. Of course, I am for the baseball players at all times and trying to help the boys all I can, but I think the reserve clause as is would be sufficient because I haven't heard too many ballplayers complain about the reserve clause.
The Chairman (Mr. Cellar): Have you heard any complaints from any players about the reserve clause?
Mr. Musial (St. Louis star): Sir, I don't believe I have heard one complaint about the reserve clause from our club, and I am sure in these various meetings that we attend that the reserve clause has never been brought up as a point of contention.
Mr. Singman: At this point, Mr. Feller, is it your idea to have baseball come within the purview of the antitrust laws?
Mr. Feller (Bob Feller, just retired from the Cleveland Indians and President of the Major League Baseball Players Association): With the exception of the reserve clause and franchise rights… As far as having a player up for grabs every 4 years, as I say, my other plan was 5 years and a 2-year option, and after 3 years if he is dissatisfied give the club owner 2 years to dispose of him to another club, and his option could go on.
Hearings Before the Antitrust Subcommittee,
Committee on the Judiciary,
H of R, 85th Cong.,
1st Sess. Part 3,
Serial No. 8.
Various dates in June, July and August, 1957.
Chuck Bednarik and Jack Jennings
The Chairman: Do you know of any case in the 12 teams of the league where a man has played for 2 years, become a free agent, and then has sought to play with another team of that league? Do you know of any such case?
Mr. Jennings (Formerly of the Chicago Cardinals, player representative): No.
Mr. Bednarik (Chuck Bednarik, Philadelphia Eagles): No… I imagine that is up to the individual coach. For instance, I am playing for the Eagles, and we are having a lousy year, I could easily say, “Gee, I’m tired of playing for a loser. I want to go to the Bears; they are not losing.” That is not fair. I came with the Eagles when they were a winning team, and, when things are tough, I believe I should stay with them. That is only fair.
Mr. Harkins (subcommittee counsel): You are aware in your contract there is a method by which you can become a free agent, and, after that, presumably, any member club in the league is in a position to hire you?
Mr. Jennings: That is right.
Mr. Harkins: That has never happened in the league?
Mr. Jennings: That is right.
Later, discussing the draft.
Mr. Pierce (subcommittee associate counsel): … Do you think that if there were no draft there would be many teams losing money and would be unable to stay in the league?
Mr. Bednarik: I think if there were no player draft, there wouldn’t be 12 teams in football. There would probably be four teams.
Mr. Jennings: I don’t think so, either.
Mr Pierce: So you think, in the long run, the player draft helps the football players?
Mr. Bednarik: That is the only way.
Mr. Pierce: Don’t you think if there were not this draft the teams would compete with each other to get good players and offer them bonus money?
Mr. Bednarik: Then there wouldn’t be as many teams.
Mr. Pierce: What you are saying is, no matter how we slice this, in the long run the draft helps the club and helps the player?
Mr. Jennings: That’s right.
Mr. Bednarik: That’s right.
Mr. Harkins: Dou you believe, Mr. Grange, that continuation of the draft is essential for football players to earn a livelihood playing professional football?
Mr. Grange: … I contend the only reason we have pro football today, as we know it, is because of the draft. Were it not for the draft, we wouldn’t have the National Football League. We would have semipro leagues which would play within a radius of a couple hundred miles…
The Chairman: Mr. Grange, I would like to get your opinion– and I offer no opinion, one way or the other: Why is it that football has a draft and baseball does not?
Mr. Grange: I don’t think any college baseball player in the United States could play big-league baseball, in the first place. College football is much better, and I don’t think a college baseball player would be drafted anywhere.
Mr. Rote: The player, when drafted or placed on reserve, sacrifices a fundamental right in the American way of life– that right being his freedom to offer his services to whomever he pleases. Yet, the player I cognizant of the fact that the NFL would suffer immeasurably should each player have the opportunity to offer his services to each and any club. The player is aware that pro football is unique in this respect… As far as the player is concerned, there is, at present, no check over the activities of the NFL as relates to the player. The draft and reserve clause are necessary to the pro game. But they are not necessary when given free rein and result in abuses of the players’ rights. A players’ association could serve as this sorely needed check.
… In my opinion, the draft clause is for the good of professional basketball inasmuch as it enables the weakest teams each year to have top choice of the eligible college seniors and thus strengthen themselves, and at the same time strengthen the league… In regard to the reserve clause, I do not see how professional basketball would be able to operate on a satisfactory basis without such a clause. Again, it seems to me that the teams which are strongest financially would, at the end of the specified period, be able to gather the top talent at the expense of the teams which could not afford to pay the higher salaries.
Hearings Before the Subcommittee on antitrust and Monopoly,
Committee on the Judiciary,
U.S. Senate, 85th Cong.,
Senator Kefauver: Do you think the unlimited reserve clause in your contract is a fair thing for the players?
Mr. Mantle: Well, I don’t have any gripes. I have been very fortunate.
Senator Kefauver: Do you think there should be any limit on the number of years you are held under the reserve clause?
Mr. Mantle: I don’t know. I don’t think about his stuff very much. [Laughter.]
Senator Kefauver: Do you particularly approve of that system?
Mr. Williams: Well, I personally don’t see how baseball could operate without the reserve clause and still maintain the integrity of the game…
Stan Musial (player rep at the time)
Senator Kefauver: Do you still think, or do you not, that the reserve clause should be limited to some number of years?
Mr. Musial: No; I do not. I think the reserve clause of baseball– most ballplayers understand the reserve clause when they sign up…
Senator Kefauver: Have you, in your 20 years’ experience, ever been dissatisfied with your salary or with the team where you were going to be sent to play?
Mr. Musial: No; I never have…
Robin Roberts (NL player rep)
Senator Kefauver: Do you have any complaints from players about the reserve clause?
Mr. Roberts: No, sir. No, sir. When it originally cam out, there were discussions about it not being the thing, and having it thrown out and everything… But after looking at it, and I know a lot of players have, I think players in general agree that baseball must have a reserve clause like it has now.
Senator Kefauver: Are you in favor of any limit on the number of years the reserve clause operates?
Mr. Roberts: I am in favor of only a discussion between the players and the owners on that, if there is going to be any discussion on it. I don’t think anybody knows what would be the best.
Senator Langer: Mr. Roberts, are you in favor of the passage of this legislation?
Mr. Roberts: Yes, sir. I think if professional baseball owners themselves are in favor it, we are, because I believe– I would say this: I think anything that is good for them in this particular line is definitely going to be good for us. I think it will help baseball in general.
Edward Yost (AL player rep)
Senator Kefauver: You testified, I believe, before the Celler committee that you thought a 10-year limit on the reserve clause might be a good thing.
Mr. Yost: … If I remember correctly, I retracted that statement, saying that I thought the reserve clause, as is, was the way ti should be. Now I am not certain, but I do feel that way now. If you limited it to 10 years, you would run into a lot of complications and difficulty when these 10-year men became free agents.
Mr. Robinson: … So I sometimes feel, myself, that when we see the Ted Williamses and the Mickey Mantles, and the Stan Musials down here testifying, that perhaps when they say they like things as they are, I would certainly have to agree because of the tremendous salaries that they get. But I wonder whether or not the 8 or 9 or 10 men on the ball club would agree to what is happening toay as the tright ting so far as the baseball player is concerned…
Senator Kefauver: Let me ask you, first, do you think there should be some limit on the length of time of a reserve contract?
Mr. Robinson: Yes; I do, sir.
Senator Kefauver: What do you think about the draft system? Do you recommend an unrestricted draft?
Mr. Robinson: I think perhaps we would be hurting some of the owners that need protection, unless it were done after 2 or 3 years or so. The players do have to be considered, however. If a ballplayer so desires, I think a ballplayer should have a say as to whether or not he should be subject to draft or not. In other words, I feel that a ballplayer should have some say personally in his baseball future.
Bob Feller (Retired)
Senator Kefauver: You once recommended, I believe, a limit on the length of the reserve clause.
Mr. Feller: Yes. Five yeas, I believe, or 3 years with 2 options, which would have been 5 years, anyway.
Senator Kefauver: You still feel that way about it?
Mr. Feller: … Not as strongly as I did.
Bill Howton (Packers, and NFL player rep)
Mr. Dixon (?): Let me make reference to this reserve clause. I understand that your contracts run for 1 year with an option for 1 year, and that you could not be cut more than 10 percent, or something to that effect. Is that correct?
Mr. Howton: Yes, sir.
Mr. Dixon: How do the players feel about this limited reserve clause? Mr Howton: As we stated, it appears that it is necessary in the livelihood of professional football, in the event the reserve clause were dropped, the teams with the wealth would naturally buy the best ballplayers. The teams with smaller wealth would obviously fall in rank and eventually die off. So the stronger teams would dominate the game, and it seems as though it is a strong stabilizer for the game although it puts the players in a bad bargaining position.