Toolson v. The New York Yankees

By Mathew Perez

What was it?

Toolson v. The New York Yankees was a United Supreme Court case in 1953. It involved George Earl Toolson a pitcher for the Newark Bears, a farm team for the New York Yankees. He believed he was good enough to play in the major leagues, and if not with the Yankees then with another team. The reserve clause of baseball at the time prevented him from free agency. He had to stay with the Yankees farm team after his contract expired, therefore he brought it to court.

What was it really about?

A previous decision had been made in 1922 that baseball did not apply to government monopoly regulations because it was not interstate commerce. The only profit that was made was fans within their own state buying tickets. Baseball had grown considerably since that decision and people began to cross state lines to attend games. Baseball franchises started making more and more money and were exempt from government regulations. The franchises were able to use the reserve clause, which let them keep players within their system even after their contracts ended. This reserve clause essentially prevented free agency, and without free agency the best teams kept the best players and remained the best in order to bring in more of a profit. This is what Toolson was trying to fight in court.

Important People

Outcome

Ruling

The Yankees won the case by a ruling of 7-2. Baseball was still exempt from further government regulations. In 1975 baseball became regulated by the government. This case was the first challenge against the reserve clause.