Opening Day: Baseball and the Law

Today is the start of Major League Baseball’s season, which, as we all know, is really just the opening act for the 28th Annual Virginia Law Softball Invitational that begins tomorrow.  Baseball and the law have a long history.  The Supreme Court ruled in 1922 that Major League Baseball was not subject to the Sherman Act in Fed. Baseball Club of Baltimore v. Nat’l League of Prof’l Baseball Clubs, 259 U.S. 200.  You can use Westlaw or Lexis to determine whether this case is still good law.  Remember, confirming the status of a case can be an important research step.

The Ninth Circuit has found itself involved with baseball as it handles the Barry Bond’s perjury case (see, for example, United States v. Bonds, 608 F.3d 495 (9th Cir. 2010) for the opinion ruling on the admissibility of certain evidence).  You can track the current status of the case through a Wikipedia site dedicated to the ‘Legal Problems of Barry Bonds.’  The fans also make sure that baseball and the law stay friends; for example, in Thurmond v. Prince William Prof’l Baseball Club, Inc., 265 Va. 59, 574 S.E.2d 246 (Va. 2003), the court held “that when a particular adult spectator of ordinary intelligence is familiar with the game of baseball that spectator assumes the normal risks of watching a baseball game, including the danger of being hit by a ball batted into an unscreened seating area of a stadium.”

Not even fictional baseball characters escape the law’s long arm. Willie Mays Hayes, a character in Major League (Paramount 1989) who claimed he could “hit like Mays and run like Hayes,” makes an appearance in an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If you’re interested in baseball and the law, VIRGO is a great tool for tracking down books in the law library’s collection.  For example, a keyword search on baseball and limiting your search to the law library returns these books, including the law school’s own G.E. White’s Creating the National Pastime: Baseball Transforms Itself, 1903-1953 (1996).  The reference librarians are also happy to help you design your research plan—baseball related or not.   

– Leslie Ashbrook

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Arthur J. Morris Law Library

The Arthur J. Morris Law Library is the home of research for students and faculty at the University of Virginia School of Law.

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