Thursday, December 14, 2006

New Insights on Blackmun from Cooperstown

Roger Abrams, Northeastern, has an enviable gig this year: Scholar in Residence at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. While there he is writing a book, The Dark Side of the Diamond. In the meantime, Prof. Abrams has a new paper on SSRN, filling us in on Justice Blackmun and baseball, Blackmun's List. Here's the abstract:
In Flood v. Kuhn, 407 U.S. 258 (1972), a majority of the Supreme Court voted to reaffirm its holding from a half-century earlier that the business of baseball did not affect interstate commerce and thus was exempt from the antitrust laws. In Part I of his remarkable majority opinion, Justice Harry Blackmun regales the wonders of baseball and then lists, without citation, “the many names, celebrated for one reason or another, that have sparked the diamond and its environs and that have provided tinder for recaptured thrills, for reminiscence and comparisons, and for conversation and anticipation in-season and off-season.” He lists 88 names of ballplayers, owners, managers, one umpire and one sports writer.
In this paper, I reveal for the first time the source of Blackmun's list. In addition, using Justice Blackmun's papers from the Library of Congress and other sources, I explore the Justice's personal views about the game and relate his comments over the years to what he characterized in correspondence as his most favorite opinion.
Although Justice Blackmun took time to extol baseball's eternal verities, he could not have considered how baseball's reserve system impacted on the lives of the men he celebrated in his list. Using interviews conducted in the 1960s by Lawrence Ritter that are now at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown (where I currently serve on my sabbatical as Scholar-in-Residence), the paper reconstructs the careers and experiences of the men on Blackmun's list from their earliest professional games until their retirements.