Flood Files Challenge to Reserve Clause

Filed under News, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals
January 16, 1970

Baseball is a monopoly that places players in a state of peonage and involuntary servitude, veteran outfielder Curt Flood contended yesterday in filing a suit that challenges the very foundation of the national pastime. The civil suit was brought in Federal Court by the 32-year-old, $90,000 star who last fall was traded by the St. Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies in a six-player deal. After the trade, Flood made a request of Bowie Kuhn, commissioner of baseball, that he be permitted to negotiate his 1970 contract as a free agent. In his letter to Kuhn, Flood wrote,”After 12 years in the major leagues, I do not feel that I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes.” He wishes to play in the 1970 season, but not with Philadelphia. Flood contends he has “a right to consider offers from other clubs before making any decision.” The request was denied. “I do not see what action I can take and cannot comply with the request,” the commissioner replied.Curt Flood

In this complaint, Flood attacks baseball’s reserve clause, which makes a player the property of a club until he is traded, sold, or released, and contends the sport is a monopoly operating in restraint of trade. “The baseball establishment maintains a lifetime grip on any player who wishes to play professional baseball in the United States,” he adds. The reserve clause has been tested twice in the Supreme Court and each time it was upheld. The first time, in 1922, when the nation’s highest tribunal held by an 8-0 vote that baseball was not an inter-state business and thus not subject to anti-trust laws. A similar finding was handed down in 1952 when the Supreme Court by a 7-2 opinion refused to overturn the 1922 decision.

Commissioner Kuhn declined immediate comment on the latest threat to baseball’s structure, but a high-ranking baseball official said, “Baseball will fight this cast to the end. There will be no compromise. We welcome the opportunity to prove the game’s legality in the courts.” The commissioner is listed as one of the defendants. The others are the presidents of the two major leagues and the 24 major league clubs. Flood hesitated to comment further on his case. “This is a very personal thing with me,” he said. “I think the legal complaint speaks for itself.” What happens if the case bounces around the courts for months or years? “I do not intend to play baseball until this thing is settled,” Flood said.

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