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Derrill Burnham "Del" Pratt, St. Louis Browns baseball player, [1913?]

The Business of Baseball

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BERA - Business & Economics Research Advisor - A Quarterly Guide to Business & Economics Topics

Issue 3/4: Summer 2005
Updated December 2016

The Sports Industry

Table of Contents

General Guides and E-Resources
Sports Marketing    New section
Building & Managing Sports Venues    New section

Caption (left):
Derrill Burnham "Del" Pratt, St. Louis Browns baseball player [1913?] from the
George Grantham Bain Collection
(Library of Congress)
Reproduction number: LC-USZ62-133653


This section of the BERA Sports Industry guide provides resources on the major league baseball business in the United States. It does not include the minor league, Olympic, college, or amateur baseball market. For references to works dealing with baseball business in other countries, please search the Library of Congress online catalog.


Baseball advertising in the United States began with the images of baseball players on cards sold with tobacco products in the 1880s through WWII when the baseball card industry took on a life of its own with the increasing popularity of the cards as collectibles. Images of early advertisements and print works about tobacco advertising document the longstanding relationship of baseball with tobacco industry sponsors. Since that time baseball has become big business. Additional information on historic baseball resources at the Library of Congress can be found in the Baseball Resources at the Library of Congress guide.

Like professional football, basketball and hockey, baseball had the potential to bring in millions of dollars in profits. "Attendance at major league games had risen from 38.7 million in 1977 to 56.9 million in 1991 and had set a record in six of the last seven years. Local and national television revenues were soaring, with the promise of pay-per-view on the horizon. Income from the licensing of baseball products had grown by leaps and bounds to over $100 million in 1990. And according to figures from Major League Baseball, total industry revenues practically had doubled from $718 million in 1985 to nearly $1.4 billion in 1990, while operating profits went from a negative $7.1 million in 1985 to a positive $214.5 million in 1989."1

Since those years there is no denying that there is risk involved in owning a franchise. The business of baseball has been wrought with conflict between owners and players, leagues and players' unions, and team lawyers and players' lawyers. Those that research this industry claim that the Major Baseball League's monopoly, negotiations for increasingly large salaries for players, strikes by players, ticket prices, and the aging of the core fan base are all factors that have contributed to the slowed growth of this industry in recent years. However, despite the perceived problems, attendance by fans at major league games have been between 50,043,384 in 1994 to a high of 72,968,953 in 2004.2 By the years 2012 attendance at major league games was 74,859,268 with an average 30,895 fans per game. 3

A newish trend in baseball is "sabermetrics" which the statistical analysis of that sport and uses statistics to measure in-game activity. It is based on the acronym SABR, which stands for the Society for American Baseball Research. While its current form was pioneered by Bill James it traces its history back to Earnshaw Cook’s book Percentage Baseball. A prime example of this is seen in the book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis.

1 Major League Baseball, as cited in USA Today 28 (November 1990):2c.

2 Major League Baseball, as cited in "Baseball - Major League Regular Season Attendance", Sports Business Research Network database. (Viewed 8 June 2005).

3 MLB's 2012 regular season attendance ranks as fifth highest ever. October 4, 2012 press release. External Link (Viewed 26 March 2013).

Electronic Resources

      Advertising, Merchandising, & Collectibles       
Trade Associations and Research Organizations


Baseball Almanac External Link

A comprehensive and freely available Web site which includes information on the economic aspects of baseball.

Baseball Archive (Sean Lahman) External Link

Includes general historical information as well as a database with complete batting and pitching statistics back to 1871, plus fielding statistics, standings, team stats, managerial records, post-season data, and more. Updates for new data are done annually.

Baseball Prospectus External Link

This Web site offers a free statistical database containing a substantial number of statistics searchable by name of player, name of team and any year from 1871 to the present. The site also includes baseball news, chat, RSS feeds, radio broadcasts, and a list of events. Some services on this site are available only to subscribers.

Business of Baseball Committee External Link

Society for American Baseball Research,External Link Business of Baseball Committee studies all aspects of baseball administration and off-the-field activity including economic, organizational, labor and legal issues. The committee's old site offered a variety of research tools for studying the business aspects of professional baseball, including databases and spreadsheets, documentation by jurisdictions exploring relocation and/or expansion, current and historical documents, biographies of individuals related to the business of baseball, selected book reviews, articles, papers, and commentaries, as well as interviews with individuals that have had an impact on the business. The archived version is still available online.

"The Economic History of Major League Baseball," by Michael J. Haupert, in Encyclopedia of Economic and Business History (Economic History Association). External Link

This article from the online Encyclopedia of Economic and Business History External Link provides an overview of the economic history of baseball, and includes tables of players' salaries, ticket costs and franchise values from 1920-2002. This essay also includes a comprehensive bibliography.

Historic Baseball Resources at the Library of Congress.

Links to selected digital resources relating to baseball history available online from the Library of Congress web site.

John Stilton's External Link

Comprehensive links page on ballparks.

Levin, Richard C., George J. Mitchell, Paul A. Volcker, George F. Will. The Report of the Independent Members of the Commissioner's Blue Ribbon Panel on Baseball Economics. New York : Major League Baseball. External Link [PDF Format: 639 KB / 93 p.]

The Commissioner's Blue Ribbon Panel on Baseball Economics, representing the interests of baseball fans, was formed to study whether revenue disparities among clubs are seriously damaging competitive balance, and if so, to recommend structural reforms to ameliorate the problem.

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Advertising, Merchandising, and Collectibles

Baseball Cards 1887-1914

Cigarette card collector Benjamin K. Edwards preserved these baseball cards in albums with more than 12,000 other cards on many subjects. After his death, Edwards' daughter gave the albums to noted poet and Lincoln biographer Carl Sandburg, who donated them to the Prints and Photographs Division of The Library of Congress in 1954. The digitized cards are part of the collections of the Prints and Photographs Division of The Library of Congress.

Emergence of Advertising in America: Tobacco Advertisements External Link

Images of baseball trading cards used by tobacco companies between 1850 and 1920 to advertise their products.

Works on baseball cards in The Library of Congress collection

A price catalog of baseball gloves as collectibles in The Library of Congress collection
LC Catalog Record: 91117746

Trade Associations and Research organizations

Major League Baseball Players Association External Link

History of this association reflects the labor history of baseball.

Major League Baseball Team Directory External Link

Directory of American and National League teams, addresses and telephone numbers.

National Sporting Goods Association External Link

Provides numerous services for members including research reports, market reports and a Cost of Doing Business Survey for the sporting goods industry.

Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) External Link

Established in Cooperstown, New York in August, 1971. Fosters the study of baseball, assists in developing and maintaining the history of the game, facilitates the dissemination of baseball research, stimulates interest in baseball, and safeguards the proprietary interests of its members' research efforts.

National Baseball Hall of Fame Library External Link

Search the online catalog of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library. Contains the most extensive collection of archival material devoted exclusively to baseball in the world. Researchers are encouraged to utilize the Bartlett Giamatti Research Center.

World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) External Link

World Baseball Softball Confederation was established in 2013 by the historic merger of the International Softball Federation (ISF) and International Baseball Federation (IBAF), the former respective world governing bodies for baseball and softball. Website includes member directory, as well as rules, history, events, and other information about baseball and softball.

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Selected Print Resources

Baseball Prospectus. Davis, Calif. : Ravenlock Media,
LC Call Number: GV865.A1 B346
LC Catalog Record: 97664090

Annual publication which provides statistical analysis and rating of baseball players. Offers performance analysis of 1,600 players in the majors and minor leagues, the top 40 prospects and draft choices. Includes essays on all 30 Major League clubs. For more statistics like these see the Baseball Prospectus Web site External Link reviewed in this guide.

Burk, Robert Fredrick. Much More Than a Game : Players, Owners, & American Baseball Since 1921. Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, 2001.
LC Call Number: GV880.B869
LC Catalog Record: 00041774
Publisher's description

Well-researched baseball labor history of the 20th century. Especially useful to researchers is the "Bibliographic Essay" giving primary source information on pages 347-357.

Jozsa, Frank P. Baseball in Crisis : Spiraling Costs, Bad Behavior, Uncertain Future. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland, c2008.
LC Call Number: GV863.A1 J69 2008
LC Catalog Record: 2008027616
Table of Contents

Provides a discussion on the decrease of interest in baseball and includes various data and statistics.

Kagan's the Business of Baseball. Carmel, CA : Paul Kagan Associates, 2001.
LC Call Number: GV880.B86
LC Catalog Record: 2001207020
Table of Contents

Annual publication that provides an industry overview with statistics on the leagues, teams, players, media, stadiums, franchise valuations, ticket prices, expansion fees, media ownership, licensing and merchandise, and the revenues and expenses of all major league teams.
This publication is no longer in print but can still be useful in understanding the business aspects of baseball. It provides an industry overview with statistics on the leagues, teams, players, media, stadiums, franchise valuations, ticket prices, expansion fees, media ownership, licensing and merchandise, and the revenues and expenses of all major league teams as of the publication date.

McKelvey, G. Richard. For It's One, Two, Three, Four Strikes You're Out at the Owners' Ball Game : Players versus Management in Baseball. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co., 2001.
LC Call Number: GV880.15.M35
LC Catalog Record: 2001041020

Focuses on the baseball strikes of 1972,1981,1985 and 1994, the role of the labor unions and collective bargaining.

Miller, Marvin. A Whole Different Ball Game : The Inside Story of the Baseball Revolution. Preface by Studs Terkel. Introduction by Bill James. Chicago : I.R. Dee, 2004.
LC Call Number: GV880.M57
LC Catalog Record: 2004052741

The author was the founding executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association. In the preface Studs Terkel describes him as the "most effective union organizer since John L. Lewis." Firsthand account of the "revolution" in major league players' salaries and benefits.

Powers, Albert Theodore. The Business of Baseball. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2003.
LC Call Number: GV880.P69
LC Catalog Record: 2002152442

A delightful history about ball players and owners, their disputes, negotiations and resolutions. Each chapter begins with interesting quotes such as " Baseball, like some other sports, poses as a sacred institution dedicated to the public good, but it is actually a big, selfish business with a ruthlessness that many big businesses would never think of displaying. " by Jackie Robinson

Sports Money : Baseball. New York : Forbes, c2008.
LC Call Number: GV880 .S67 2008
LC Catalog Record: 2008276157

This is a special issue from Forbes magazine. Includes: The Money Behind the Yankees and Red Sox Rivalry; Best and Worst Players for the Money; Touring the Ballparks; Ranking the GMs- Performance vs. Payroll; Bargain Fantasy Players; MLB's Secret Weapon- Asians.

Surdam, David G. Ball Game Biz : An Introduction to the Economics of Professional Team Sports. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co., c2010.
LC Call Number: GV880 .S87 2010
LC Catalog Record: 2010029786

Zimbalist, Andrew S. May the Best Team Win : Baseball Economics and Public Policy. Washington, D.C. : Brookings Institution Press, 2003.
LC Call Number: GV880.Z58
LC Catalog Record: 2002156494

The author argues that major league baseball has been a monopoly since 1922. He considers some of the problems of today's baseball industry as: "labor tensions, competitive dominance by high- revenue teams, migration of game telecasts to cable, escalating ticket prices, and an aging fan base."

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Baseball Advertising

Baseball and American Culture : Across the Diamond. Edward J. Rielly, editor. New York : Haworth Press, 2003. LC Call Number: GV867.64 .B36
LC Catalog Record: 2002015134

The following chapter deals with the baseball advertising. Newman, Roberta. "Here's the Pitch : Baseball and Advertising."

Keetz, Frank. Baseball Advertising Trade Cards. 3rd ed. [Schenectady, N.Y.] : F. Keetz, 2011.
LC Call Number: HF5851 .K44 2011
LC Catalog Record: 2012439274

Petrone, Gerard S. Tobacco Advertising: The Great Seduction. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 1996.
LC Call Number: HF6161.T6 P48
LC Catalog Record: 96006405

Glossy reproductions of baseball cards and cigarette inserts on pages 57 and 155 with a short history.

Norris, James D. Advertising and the Transformation of American Society, 1865-1920. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.
LC Call Number: HF5813.U6 N67
LC Catalog Record: 90002760

For additional titles on this topic, see the Baseball Cards collection.

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Baseball Management and Marketing

Abrams, Roger I. The Money Pitch : Baseball Free Agency and Salary Arbitration. Philadelphia : Temple University Press, 2000.
LC Class Number: GV880 .A27
LC Catalog Record: 99087922

Describes the negotiation and arbitration of ball players' salaries and the relationship of baseball team owners, players, agents and the union.

Baseball and American Culture : Across the Diamond. Edward J. Rielly, editor. New York : Haworth Press, 2003.
LC Call Number: GV867.64 .B36
LC Catalog Record: 2002015134

The following chapters deal with baseball management and labor relations. Puerzer, Richard J. "From John McGraw to Joe Torre : Industrial Management Styles Applied throughout the History of Major League Baseball." and Shallcross Koziara, Karen. " Baseball Labor Relations : Is It Safe to Go Back to the Ball Park?"

Baseball and Antitrust : The Legislative History of the Curt Flood Act of 1998, Public Law no. 105-297, 112 Stat. 2824 / edited by Edmund P. Edmonds and William H. Manz. Buffalo, N.Y. : W.S. Hein, 2001.
LC Call Number: KF3989.A313 A163 2001
LC Catalog Record: 2001024210

Budig, Gene A. The Inside Pitch -- And More : Baseball's Business and the Public Trust. 1st ed. Morgantown : West Virginia University Press, 2004.
LC Call Number: GV880 .B83
LC Catalog Record: 2003116516
Table of Contents

As president of the American League from 1994-2000 the author examines major issues in growing the game in the 21st century.

Lowenfish, Lee. The Imperfect Diamond : A History of Baseball’s Labor Wars. Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, 2010.
LC Call Number: GV880.15 .L69 2010
LC Catalog Record: 2009049566

Historical overview covering the century plus long struggle between labor and Major League Baseball. First published in 1980 and then 1991, this 2010 version has an epilogue tha picks up where the earlier volume stopped by taking readers from the 1990s and into the 21st century.

Papers of Branch Rickey, 1890-1969 (Archival Manuscript Collection)
LC Call Number: 0451G (Manuscript Reading Room)
Also available on Microfilm: 22,326-2P (Manuscript Reading Room)
Catalog Record: mm82037820

Of particular interest for researchers is a manuscript collection and finding aid for the papers of Wesley Branch Rickey, major league baseball player, manager, and executive, which reflects the history of baseball business from 1936 to 1965.

Williams, Pat and Michael Weinreb. Marketing Your Dreams: Business and Life Lessons from Bill Veeck, Baseball's Promotional Genius. Champaign, IL : Sports Publishing, Inc., 2000. ISBN: 1-58261-182-3
LC Catalog Record: 00101417
Note: Not available in the collections of the Library of Congress as of March 2013.

Draws from the career of a master promoter of baseball. Records the power plays and financial management style of Bill Veeck, former owner of the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns and the Chicago White Sox.

Zimbalist, Andrew S. In the Best Interests of Baseball? : The Revolutionary Reign of Bud Selig. Hoboken, N.J. : Wiley, c2006.
LC Call Number: GV875.7 .Z56 2006
LC Catalog Record: 2005021354 Table of contents

Provides a look at the history of the commissioner as well as an historical look at past commissioners.

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Library of Congress Catalog Searches

Additional works on the baseball business in the Library of Congress may be identified by searching the Online Catalog under appropriate Library of Congress subject headings. Choose the topics you wish to search from the following list of Library of Congress subject headings to link directly to the Catalog and automatically execute a search for the subject selected. Please be aware that during periods of heavy use you may encounter delays in accessing the catalog. For assistance in locating the many other subject headings which relate to baseball as a business, please consult a reference librarian.

Last Updated: 01/17/2020

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