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The baseball anomaly: A regulatory paradox in American political development

Jerold John Duquette, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Major League Baseball, alone among industries of its size in the United States, operates as an unregulated monopoly. This twentieth century regulatory anomaly has become known simply as the "baseball anomaly." Major League Baseball developed into a major commercial enterprise without being subject to antitrust liability. Long after the interstate commercial character of baseball had been established, and even recognized by the Supreme Court, baseball's monopoly remained free from federal regulation. This study explains the baseball anomaly by connecting baseball's regulatory status to the larger political environment, tracing the game's fate through four different regulatory regimes in the United States. The constellation of institutional, ideological and political factors within each regulatory regime provides the context for the persistence of the baseball anomaly. Baseball's unregulated monopoly persists because of the confluence of institutional, ideological and political factors which have prevented the repeal of baseball's antitrust exemption to date. However, both the institutional and ideological factors, which have in the past protected baseball's unregulated monopoly, are fading. Baseball's owners can no longer claim special cultural significance in defense of the exemption, nor can they claim that the commissioner system approximates government regulation sufficiently. Both of these strategies have been discredited by the labor unrest in baseball over the last decade. While baseball is one labor strike away from losing part of its exemption, it will likely retain the aspects of the exemption which cover the contractual relationship between the major and minor leagues, as well as the part of the exemption which allows Major League Baseball to regulate the migration of individual franchises. These aspects of baseball's exemption with likely be codified and expanded to all professional sports leagues. The eventual partial repeal of baseball's exemption and the likely expansion of part of baseball's exemption to other sports makes it both an outdated anomaly and a harbinger of sports antitrust policy in the twenty first century.

Subject Area

Political science|American history|Law|Business community|Recreation

Recommended Citation

Duquette, Jerold John, "The baseball anomaly: A regulatory paradox in American political development" (1997). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9809329.