Cover image for Much more than a game : players, owners, & American baseball since 1921
Much more than a game : players, owners, & American baseball since 1921
Burk, Robert Fredrick, 1955-
Publication Information:
Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xi, 372 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GV880 .B869 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
GV880 .B869 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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To most Americans, baseball is just a sport; but to those who own baseball teams--and those who play on them--our national pastime is much more than a game. In this book, Robert Burk traces the turbulent labor history of American baseball since 1921. His comprehensive, readable account details the many battles between owners and players that irrevocably altered the business of baseball.

During what Burk calls baseball's "paternalistic era," from 1921 to the early 1960s, the sport's management rigidly maintained a system of racial segregation, established a network of southern-based farm teams that served as a captive source of cheap replacement labor, and crushed any attempts by players to create collective bargaining institutions. In the 1960s, however, the paternal order crumbled, eroded in part by the civil rights movement and the competition of television. As a consequence, in the "inflationary era" that followed, both players and umpires established effective unions that successfully pressed for higher pay, pensions, and greater occupational mobility--and then fought increasingly bitter struggles to hold on to these hard-won gains.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

As a microcosm of society, organized baseball has survived its share of battles over racism, pay inequity, unionizing and scandals. Here, Burk, chair of the history department at Muskingum College, follows up Never Just a Game: Players, Owners, and American Baseball to 1920 with an in-depth look at the sport as a business from its post-WWI golden age to beyond the 1994 players' strike. With the increasing globalization of baseball, Burk argues for a future of greater economic predictability and increased on-field-off-field cooperation ("the players' own interests might prove best served by agreeing to a new partnership in which labor peace and a formal coequal role in industry decisions was gained in exchange for accepting reasonable leaguewide minimum and maximum payrolls"). The author divides the past 80 years into two discrete periods: the first, the "paternalistic era," and the second, the "inflationary era," which began when baseball, and the nation, were forever changed by the civil rights movement and a generation unafraid to question authority. As he chronicles the history of baseball's labor movement (the section describing the conditions minority players had to endure in the '40s and '50s is especially interesting), Burk focuses on the major people like Curtis Flood, who accused the league of conspiracy when he was traded, and Fay Vincent, who alienated players and team owners during his reign as baseball commissioner a focus that significantly animates his heavily detailed narrative. (Mar. 5) Forecast: Although primed for publication just before Opening Day 2001, Burk's exhaustive analysis is geared for a keen but ultimately small readership among the legions of baseball book-buying enthusiasts; despite its energetic title, stores should anticipate only modest sales. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Burk (history, Muskingum Coll.) has written a companion to his Never Just a Game: Players, Owners and American Baseball to 1920. Burk focuses on baseball's volatile labor history, contrasting the "paternalistic era" of 1921 through the early 1960s (which was often bleak and unfair to many players) with the seeming prosperity of current times. In these days of escalating salaries and costs and the friction that exists between players and management, this book provides scholarly background. Libraries featuring comprehensive sports and/or labor relations collections should consider. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Burk (history, Muskingum College) authored Never Just A Game (CH, Oct'94), a review of baseball and its labor-management relations from the beginning of organized leagues to 1920. With Much More than a Game he completes his two-part history with an account of the struggle for control of the labor market in baseball from 1921 to the present. He divides this volume into two distinct periods: the "Paternalistic Era"--the years up to the coming of unionization and collective bargaining in the 1960s--and the "Inflationary Era," largely the period of player free agency, territorial and league expansions, television, and competition from other sports and entertainment options. Coverage of the first period includes the roles of "farm systems," racial segregation and integration, and initial labor gains. In the latter section, Burk examines baseball's labor-management conflicts and agreements, and evolutionary changes in the workplace for both players and umpires, in the contexts of the Civil Rights Movement, industrial unionism, television, and globalization. Comprehensive, well-written, and with valuable notes and a bibliographic essay, this book is a rich addition to the literature on the social and economic history of our national pastime for scholar and fan alike. Timely in view of the strong possibility of another work stoppage after the 2001 season. A. R. Sanderson University of Chicago

Table of Contents

Prefacep. vii
Part 1 The Age of Rickeyp. 2
Chapter 11921-1929

p. 3

Chapter 2 1930-1940p. 40
Chapter 3 1941-1949p. 69
Chapter 4 1950-1965p. 108
Part 2 The Age of Millerp. 144
Chapter 5 1966-1972p. 145
Chapter 6 1973-1979p. 183
Chapter 7 1980-1988p. 222
Chapter 8 1989-2000p. 262
Appendixp. 306
Notesp. 311
Bibliographic Essayp. 347
Indexp. 359