The book: “Baseball and the Law: Cases and Materials”
The authors: Louis H. Schiff and Robert M. Jarvis
The vital statistics: Carolina Academic Press; 1,040 pages, $120 (Released Dec. 30, 2015)
Find it: At Amazon.com, at the publishers website
The pitch: Just when we think our brain is too nuanced to handle anything so esoteric and excessive, we have a new elephant-sized project in the room.
Easily the first book in our review series to exceed 1,000 pages and $100 (and a good four pounds to boot), it’s worth bringing it in and holding it up for several reasons.
(And not just its flashy cover.)
One, co-author Schiff thought he would challenge me to read this. Make that, the Honorable Schiff, a county court judge for the last 20 years in the 17th Judicial Circuit of Florida. He’s also an adjunct professor of law at the Mitchell/Hamline School of Law.
His partner in crime, Jarvis, is a law professor at Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law.
I couldn’t argue with their plea.
But not to go all Tom Lawless here, there was no possible way to get through all this without a civil suit, directly at Schiff and Jarvis, for traumatic frontal lobe trauma. I hesitated even asking the publisher to send it for fear of the postal service worker having a hernia. Besides, the text was accessible on an online platform to peruse 110 principle readings, 619 notes and 26 photographs of all the key jurisprudence that has gone through the game.
It’s one thing to have a go-to text if you’re trying to debate civil rights, player free agency or Roberts’ Rules of Order.
But the more we plowed through this, we began to feel like the Rob Lowe character in Fox’s TV series “The Grinder.” An actor who plays a lawyer can’t really be that delusional to think he has enough experience to get into real law, can he?
Can this book turn an average baseball fan into a law junkie?
If you can get through 26 pages of a table of contents, then you’ve shown enough patience and drive to start feeling that way.
Let’s cut to the verdict.
As a test case, we were drawn to the listing of Fish v. Los Angeles Dodgers Baseball Club on page 568 – something we were familiar with as it related to the death of a young spectator who was struck by a foul ball in 1970.
Alan Fish was the 14-year-old from L.A. sitting near the visiting dugout. He died four days after his head injury.
We knew that the boy’s parents brought a lawsuit against the team seeking damages and contending the Dodgers “failed to provide the decedent with a safe place to witness a ballgame” and the emergency medical services were negligent. The court ruled out the Dodgers’ culpability and only the second issue of malpractice was heard by a jury. The details given here are a bit tough to stomach, but even in today’s world, it would not be unusual to see such detail reviewed through social media, such as in the case of the Brian Stow parking lot beating at Dodger Stadium.
The deeper we read, we had another reason to stop and take a breath.
It seems a piece we wrote about the 40th anniversary of the case was cited in the notes on page 576.
Way to empower us even more than we need to be.
We know this season the Dodgers have tried to provide better safety by extending the netting behind home plate. The decision to do so is in reaction to a class-action lawsuit filed against the MLB by a Connecticut woman hospitalized after being hit in the head with a foul ball at Fenway Park last season. Last summer, USA Today also followed up on a story about the Dodgers fan, Susan Rhodes, who in 2008 was hit by a piece of shattered bat behind the visitors dugout and suffered a broken jaw.
We thank – we think – these authors for all the time they put into creating this one-stop binding to be better used in academic research. And because of ever-changing nature of law and new cases popping up, it’s easy to see how this kind of text could be a vital reference stop, as well as needed to be updated over time.
As prolific baseball book reviewer Ron Kaplan has already written about this one: “The closest I’ll ever get to law school” is reading this. We agree. And we’d also encourage anyone who thinks they may have a shot at becoming the MLB Commissioner some day, start by lawyering up and investing in the knowledge here about how the game is still held together by the strings of historical court documents.
More to know:
= Knowing this piece on Schiff’s background exists in the Daily Business Review, and noting the authors give their email addresses in the book — email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org — we reached out to Schiff for more info:
Q: The intent of the book seems to be more than just having a collection “best of” legal briefs that relate to baseball. Maybe you can explain more in depth, as you did in the book’s introduction, what kind of read this is intended for?
A: First, a little of my story: I grew up a Mets fan on Long Island. Went to my first Mets game without “adult supervision” with a friend for Opening Day in 1968, right before my 13th birthday. I spent my second most memorable summer as a youth in 1969 cheering on the Miracle Mets. I last played hardball when I was 15, and the teams we played were happier to see me pitch than my own teammates. Moved to Florida in 1972 when I was a senior in high school.
While earning my journalism degree from the University of Florida (1977), I was the public relations intern for the Ft. Lauderdale Yankees for the ’75 and ’76 seasons. They had no director of PR so it was just me — I wrote a daily column for the scorecard called “Yankee Doodles,” sat in as substitute official scorer, substitute public address announcer, ticket taker and came up with promotions such as “Broken Bat Day,” “Must Win Nigh,” and some other fun things.
I spent my most memorable summer as a youth in 1976 when Mr. Steinbrenner invited me to his home in New York City for the Old Timers Weekend. It was there he offered me a job to come to New York and work for the Yankees when I graduated college. It was a job I later turned down, so I could go to law school. What was I thinking?
After going to law school at Hamline University in St. Paul — the Twins were still playing in Metropolitan Stadium in those days — I came home and went to work in Florida. Managed my own law firm from 1982 until I was elected a County Court Judge for a term that began in 1997.
I have been nuts about baseball since I was a kid. I wanted to be an usher at Shea Stadium so I could get into the games for free. Since then, I have been to about 1,000 baseball games. A big thrill I had this past season was the Marlins invited me to throw out the first pitch on my 60th birthday (above).
My brother and I are full 81 game season ticket holders for the Marlins. We have had our season seats since 2003. Before then, I would still go to about 20-25 games a year.
The course I teach at Mitchell/Hamline is called ‘Law and the Business of Baseball.’ Professor Jarvis’ course (at Nova Southeastern University’s College of Law) is called ‘Baseball and the Law.’
Q: So back to the original question …
A: The book was intended to be the first of its kind law school textbook on baseball and the law, and we have succeed at that goal. I was in New York this past January for its debut at the Association of American Law Schools, where it was well received by the law school community. While I was in New York, I met with and delivered copies of the book to Tom Ostertag at Major League Baseball and Kevin McGuiness and Robbie Guerra at Major League Baseball Players Association.
It was during my meetings with them that I realized the appeal of this book goes way beyond the classroom. The attorneys saw this book as a “go-to” type book. One even said that he would add this book to his coffee table.
So began the “unintended consequence” of this project.
With my background in public relations, when I got back from New York, I started to branch out and send out letters to those who I thought would have an interest in baseball and the law that were not law professors. The response has been astounding.
Almost immediately I started to receive responses, and slowly (without a publicity budget and in my spare time) the book has begun to get noticed from the non-legal community.
Vince Gennaro had me on as a guest a few weeks back on his MLB Radio show. Ron Kaplan has given two very nice mentions of the book in recent weeks. There are others who have also mentioned the book there are other sports and business writers interested in doing a story about the book.
Q: A book that’s more than 1,000 and more than $100 would really put this in a category all its own. With all the editing you did, and all the time you put in, you can probably justify both those numbers, right? As well as justify something twice as big and expensive?
A: The original intent was to have a 500 page book when we started the project in June of 2013; what you have is the edited-down version of the book at 1,040 pages. Most law school books of this size sell from $250 – $350. We wanted to price the book, to make it attractive for professors and law schools to adopt the book and not break the budgets of law students.
As Bob and I approached each area of the law, we realized it was necessary to give substantive case notes, beyond what many law school texts offer. We also realized we could be at this project for years, so we had to make sure the book was not so massive as to be too cumbersome.
The book’s main audience is the country’s 120,000 law students. We would like to see all of them take a baseball law course before they graduate!
All kidding aside, we believe that baseball’s many legal battles are a great study tool for aspiring lawyers, in that they run the gamut from anti-trust law to bankruptcy law to contract law to intellectual property law to labor law to tax law to zoning law and everything in-between.
Indeed, our very first piece in the book discusses the important role lawyers have played in baseball.
However, now that the book is done and we stand back a bit, we realize we have done more than just create a teaching tool for law professors, thus the “unintended consequence.”
Like most law school casebooks, our book follows this design: A judicial decision (heavily edited to zero in on the principle of law that the student is supposed to learn) followed by a series of “notes” that give the student food for though” and that provide the basis of classroom discussion.
Most law school casebooks, however, have very simple notes — things like, “Why did the judge rule the way she did?” or “Do you think the judge made a mistake?” or “If the judge’s ruling is appealed to a higher court, what do you think will happen?”
In contrast, our notes are encyclopedia expositions of baseball’s history and lore. That’s because while students don’t really need to know much about the history and lore of corporate income tax to understand that GM sometimes has to pay U.S. taxes on its overseas profits, students need a lot of background to understand why the Dodgers could not simply move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles but instead had to notify the National League, come to an understanding with the Pacific Coast League and pay reparations to its teams, including the two it displaced (the Los Angeles Angels and Hollywood Stars).
Given the encyclopedic nature of our notes, what we hope is that baseball lawyers, baseball historians, and baseball fans will want to purchase our book — both to read about baseball from a different perspective than they are used to and to keep the book as a reference work.
We also are hoping that libraries (both law and non-law) will want a copy of the book for their collections for future researchers.
Let me give you a quick example, again using the Dodgers, of what I am talking about. All fans (we would assume) know (or at least suspect) that MLB teams now benefit when a ticket is re-sold on StubHub, because the team gets a piece of the re-sale price. Most fans probably also know that before StubHub, teams fought ticket scalping because there was no profit in it for them.
After this, the road divides, with only hard-core fans knowing that teams were so opposed to ticket scalping that they sometimes actually refused to seat fans who showed up with scalped tickets.
What almost no fans know, however, is how teams knew that the tickets had been scalped. As we explain in the book, it’s because states had laws that required ticket scalpers to put their name and the sales price on the back of the ticket.
This note comes after a case called Levine (which stands for the proposition that amusement operators can deny seating to patrons even if they have a ticket, so long as they refund the patron the ticket’s face price, even if the patron has paid more than the face price — this is what the Brooklyn Dodgers were doing, which upset the ticket scalpers, because the Dodgers were placing newspapers ads warning fans not to buy from scalpers) and before a case called Lanier (which stands for the proposition that a ticket holder is free to give away or sell his ticket for at or below the ticket’s face price — the case involves a Boston Red Sox fan who was arrested even though he is just trying to sell his extra ticket for face price).
Here’s another example: Laypeople all know the story of the Barry Bonds home run ball.
Do you know any sportswriter that didn’t have an opinion on what should have been done with that ball? So, I really like the Popov case. It teaches the fundamentals of ownership of personal property law. I always use it when I teach.
As an aside, when I teach I implement a method called the Kolb Cycle of Experiential Learning. This methodology of teaching requires the instructor to use various ways for students to learn each hour. In its simplest form, the learner “hears” then “sees”, then “does” an exercise each hour — not just straight lecture.
So back to Popov … and who owns the baseball.
First there is a general discussion of what constitutes ownership. Who owns the baseball, who has a right to the baseball.
Then, I show the video of the baseball going into the stands along with courtroom testimony. I use clips from the movie “Up for Grabs” 2004. After the students have a good understanding of the law and the facts at hand, I divide the students in juries of six. Each jury must then come up with the answer as who is the owner of the baseball.
It is in the deliberative process that students learn the most; as they are able to take into their deliberations all they have learned and try and come up with the answer.
After each jury comes back with their answers, I then play for them the ruling made by the judge in the case. It really does not matter how the judge ruled, what matters most is the team building the jury exercise has taught them.
Q: For those readers in Southern California, which of the cases might interest them most?
A: The book is full of Southern California cases. With the electronic edition of the book Carolina Academic Press, you can do a word search of the three Southern California teams. Of the 110 principal cases, there are at least 14 principal cases your readers will have an interest to read:
Chapter 1: Metropolitan Exhibition Co. v Ward
Griffin v Brooklyn Dodgers
Chapter 2: Commissioners:
MLBPA v Commissioner of MLB (Steve Howe)
Ludtke v Kuhn (woman reporter at Dodgers-Yankees World Series)
Chapter 3: Teams:
Hollywood Baseball Association v Commissioner of Internal Revenue
City of Anaheim v Angles Baseball L.P.
Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. v Sed Non Olet Denarius, Ltd. (re Los Angeles Dodgers LLC)
Chapter 4: Stadiums:
Shapiro v San Diego City Council
Fish v Los Angeles Dodgers Baseball Club
Baker v Major League Baseball Properties, Inc.
Chapter 5: Players:
Josh Hamilton trade from Angels to Rangers, although not a principal case discussed in detail (note 5, pages 767-769)
Roseboro – Marichal fight (although not a principal case, great photo on page 783 with a note on the same page)
Chapter 6: Fans:
Levine v Brooklyn National League Baseball Club, Inc.
Cohn v Corinthian Colleges, Inc.
Gentry v eBay, Inc.
== Update: A review by Howard Cole of Forbes.com
== A review by the Sun-Sentinel in Florida
== More baseball and law-related books:
1995: “Baseball and the American Legal Mind”
1998: “Legal Bases: Baseball and the Law”
2009: “The Little Book of Baseball Law” by the American Bar Association