THE IMPERFECT DIAMOND: The Story of Baseball's Reserve System and the Men Who Fought to Change It by Lee & Tony Lupien Lowenfish
Kirkus Star

THE IMPERFECT DIAMOND: The Story of Baseball's Reserve System and the Men Who Fought to Change It

Email this review


A lively chronicle of organized baseball's chaotic labor relations--unabashedly, and understandably, on the side of the players. At the heart of the matter, from 1879 through 1975, was Section 10(a) of the Uniform Player's Contract, the so-called reserve clause that bound players to their teams indefinitely with one-year renewal options--options deemed valid in perpetuity with or without signed agreements. The club owners--exempted from antitrust laws--claimed that this one-sided arrangement was necessary to protect ""investments"" in the talented, idolized chattel and to maintain ""competitive balance"" from season to season. As a practical matter, the authors note, Section 10(a) served to keep a lid on salaries by denying players access to alternative markets for their services. And, they point out, since 1900 just four teams have won 60 percent of all pennants--a challenge to the reserve system as the great leveler. Much of this, as told here, is a personal story--climaxing in 1975 when an impartial arbitrator ushered in the era of free agency by finding for pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally who had played out their option years without signing new contracts and wanted to be unyoked. Also in the lineup: Marvin J. Miller, formerly of the Steelworkers, who brought solidarity and purpose to the previously impotent Players Association; Curt Flood, who earlier pursued his antitrust suit to the Supreme Court and lost; and Danny Gardella who, still earlier (1946-47) jumped to the outlaw Mexican League and then sought reinstatement. But it will be more news to many that the players' first rebellion occurred way back in 1890. All about baseball's perennial springs of discontent, in short--the morality, the economics, the personalities.

Pub Date: June 23rd, 1980
Publisher: Stein & Day