Baseball strike of 1972

The Event: First players’ strike in Major League Baseball, motivated by the players’ desire for better pension benefits and salary arbitration rights
Date: April 1-13, 1972
Place: United States and Canada
Significance: The 1972 baseball strike was the first organized player strike against Major League Baseball’s team owners. The event provided the precedent for future players’ strikes.
Confrontations between players and management have occurred throughout the history of baseball. Players were always at a disadvantage because of the reserve clause. The reserve clause of players’ contracts stipulated that, on a contract’s expiration, a player’s team retained the exclusive rights to that player. Thus, unless a team formally released or traded one of its players, that player could not play for any other team, even after he was no longer being paid to play for the first team. The reserve clause allowed owners to dictate the fates of players.
In 1966, Marvin Miller was hired as the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). Miller transformed the MLBPA into a bona fide union. In 1968, Miller was able to negotiate the first collective bargaining agreement in baseball. In 1972, Miller represented players in negotiations with owners. The major negotiation items included player pension funds, a minimum salary, player arbitration, and whether a player could veto a trade. Owners were reluctant to meet the demands of players. As a result, players on every team went on strike for the first time in baseball. The strike lasted thirteen days, and the owners and players agreed on several benefits to players. The players received a $500,000 increase in their pension fund. A system of arbitration was put into place in which players who had disagreements with a team’s salary offer could submit a proposal to an impartial arbitrator. A “ten-and-five” rule was also agreed on. This agreement would allow a player to veto a trade if he had played for ten years in the major leagues and had been with the same team for the last five years. In addition, the minimum salary for players was increased to $16,000. The arbitration gains made by players during the 1972 strike led the way to free agency (the ability of an athlete to negotiate a contract with any team), as players commenced signing lucrative contracts beginning during the mid-1970’s.

Further Reading
Dworkin, James B. Owners Versus Players: Baseball and Collective Bargaining. Boston: Auburn House, 1981.
Korr, Charles P. The End of Baseball as We Knew It: The Players Union, 1960-1981. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2002.
Miller, Marvin. A Whole Different Ball Game: The Sport and Business of Baseball. Secaucus, N.J.: Carol Publishing Group, 1991.
See also: Labor history; labor strikes; Intercollegiate sports; Sports franchises; Supreme Court and labor law.

U.S. Consumer Electronics Sales by Product, 2003-2006, in Millions of Dollars

Sports franchises

Intercollegiate sports

Labor strikes

Homestead strike

Coal strike of 1902

Air traffic controllers’ strike

A–Z index