The Standard Player Contract, 1881


Richard Hershberger

Richard Hershberger is a paralegal working in Maryland. When he isn't doing whatever it is that paralegals do, or taking his daughters to Girl Scouts, he is dedicated to the collection and analysis of useless and unremunerative information.

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5 Responses

  1. Avatar nevermoor says:

    And that doesn’t even have the reserve clause yet!Report

  2. Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

    The earliest version of the reserve system had been instituted in 1879, but at this point it was still merely collusion among the owners. They agreed that each could designate five players who the others would not sign. They claimed that the selected players considered this an honor, reflecting as it did on their playing skills. Many modern writers take this claim at face value, which tells you something about the credulousness of many modern writers.

    These were all attempts at reducing expenses. There was a defensible argument in the late 1870s that something had to be done. The country was in a depression and nobody, except possibly Chicago, was making money. But by October of 1881 the economy was clearly in recovery and baseball was in a general revival.

    I have argued in the past that the reserve system, or something like it, was and is necessary in professional team sports. But this 1881 contract includes dickishness for its own sake.Report

  3. Avatar Vikram Bath says:

    This exact same verbiage was in most of the leases I’ve signed.Report