Aug. 27, 1953

They were not formally unionized, but 70 years ago players were mulling over the need to hire a labor lawyer to at least be in the room when owners discussed issues that directly affected them.

As whipping boys go, the Major League Baseball Players Association has stood the test of time quite well. It, and MLB owners, have driven the game to new heights of popularity and disdain. Neither comes out well when subject to debate by their customers over a beer or three.

So when reference is made to the days before the MLBPA existed – that is, pre-1966 – it is downright quaint to consider the labor battlefield two decades before the modern game began taking shape.

On short, the reserve clause served as a leash no player could so much as stretch, let alone snap. Owners owned players’ services for life. Players could ask for a trade, or hold out during stalled contract talks, but were otherwise seen and not heard.

Actually, players had no right to be heard on much of anything. Players were classified as haves and have-nots based on who owned their club. Tom Yawkey’s penchant for pampering made the Red Sox a leading have.

So as the players were deciding on whether to hire attorney J. Norman Lewis to represent them in trying to settle any differences with owners, the Red Sox were were divided.

“It’s about time we did something,’’ Billy Goodman said, as reported the Boston Globe. “The owners have backed out on most of the agreements they made with players, especially on overnight games and get-away dates.”

“I’ll go along with whatever the players representing us want to do,” Jimmy Piersall said.

“The players have got along pretty good with the owners up to now,” Al Zarilla said. “I see no need for a lawyer to represent us.”
Talk about union solidarity …

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