Employing insight rather than hindsight, and steering clear of apocrypha, lawyer/sportswriter Fetter ably delineates the role of business in the evolution of professional baseball.
The analysis pivots around the unrivaled success of the New York Yankees during the last century, though Fetter also closely examines the executive offices of the New York Giants, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the St. Louis Cardinals to find the reasons behind the teams’ successes and failures. His thesis is that ownership innovation, strategy, and management skills—both with players and with the social, economic, and legal challenges that society carried onto the field, from blue laws to racism—play a determining role in who wins and who loses in the long run. The Yankees had the bucks, for sure, but they also had a managerial hierarchy that coordinated the administration of the team, with carefully delineated spheres of responsibility. (The Yankees’ success, despite George Steinbrenner’s managerial meddling, is a fly in this ointment, though it’s true that when he overmeddles, the Bronx Bombers bomb.) Along the way, Fetter puts paid to a number of baseball business legends: that the sale of Babe Ruth had nothing to do with No, No Nanette (and that he built that house in the Bronx: credit goes to the advent of Sunday games); that the Cardinals’ farm system was the root to their winning ways (Fetter contends that Branch Rickey’s inspired improvisations preempted his reputation for methodical planning); and that the Dodger and Giant moves to the West Coast reflected Walter O’Malley’s greed more than they did economic, cultural, and demographic shifts. Fetter isn’t the first to say it, but he presents a compelling argument: it isn’t all about money, but how that money is spent.
A thorough overview of baseball as a business, turning the limelight on the executive offices when it usually plays on the field. (16 pp. photos, not seen)