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Exhibition Baseball Americana

Paul Cook’s (1863–1905) contract, Western League of Base Ball Clubs, 1892. Courtesy of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum (095.00.00)

The Despised Reserve Clause

When a player signed a contract, which was for one season, his team held rights to him in perpetuity; if he was sold or traded to another club, that team then reserved all rights to him. In a thicket of legalese, this 1892 Western League contract binds a player to his team (as indicated in the first paragraph). He could only negotiate with the team that owned his contract. Ultimately, he either accepted the salary he was offered or he missed the season.