National & American League Professional Baseball Clubs v. Major League Baseball Players Association
Major League Baseball Arbitration Proceeding
66 Lab. Arb. Rep. (BNA) 101 (1976)
Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally (plaintiffs) were players for Major League Baseball (MLB) (defendant). Both players refused to sign new contracts at the end of the 1974 season. Instead, they played the 1975 season under the terms of the Uniform Player’s Contract. This contract gave their clubs the right to renew the players’ old contract for one year on the same terms. The MLB clubs claimed that this reserve option clause was included in the renewed contract, thus allowing them to renew the players’ contracts indefinitely. Players whose contract was in effect under this reserve clause were placed in MLB’s reserve system. This system prevented a player from negotiating with other teams until that player was released from his current contract. MLB argued that without the right to a lifetime reserve system, the entire structure of baseball would be devastated. The players argued that the reserve option clause did not carry over into the renewed contract, and thus could be exercised only once. The players thus argued that they were free agents after their one-year renewal. The Major League Baseball Players Association filed a grievance with an arbitrator on the players’ behalf.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Seitz, A.)
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