"The most barefaced attempt at a company union I have ever heard of," said Robert Murphy '32, labor relations director of the American Baseball Guild, yesterday. He was speaking, of course, of the current meeting between baseball players and club owners in New York.
Murphy says he has spoken to about 100 players in the past few days and that most of them believe that the meeting is just an attempt to throw them the bone, and that the move to give the players a voice came not out of benevolence but out of the realization that such a result was inevitable.
The Benevolent Mr. Mack
"I could talk for three days on some of the injustices done to ball players by the club owners," said Murphy. A soft-spoken lawyer in his middle thirties, he talked with a perceptible. New England accent of Connie Mack's offer to cut Jimmy Foxx's salary from $18,000 to $12,000 after the 1933 season, the second consecutive year that Foxx had run off with the most valuable player honors in the American League.
Except for some sandlot experience, Murphy is no ballplayer himself, having confined his spring athletic talents to the cinder paths while at Harvard. For this reason he is considered by some to be an outsider and not entitled to be the head of a union of baseball players.
Murphy is in complete agreement on this point. He feels that all the officers of the Guild should be professional players or former players and he will be perfectly satisfied to stay on as labor relations director.
However, the Guild does not have resources enough to hire a big-name athlete to run the union, and Murphy does not feel that a head should be elected until such times as the Guild is recognized by the club owners and almost all the players who are going to join have signed.
The Guild program contains six main points: that 50 per cent of the purchase price go to a player if he is sold, that the players have the right to arbitrate their salary disputes and grievances, that there be no maximum salary, that there be a minimum salary of $7500 per year, that contracts not be one sided, and that there be provisions for bonuses and insurance.
According to Murphy, the Guild has no desire to stand baseball on its ear. He does not consider unreasonable the arguments he has heard against a player's getting part of his purchase price and he admits that the 50 per cent and $7500 figures are purely arbitrary and can be changed if some other settlement is reached. He doesn't believe that the much discussed reserve clause can be completely done away with without benfitting the more affluent clubs.
Murphy does not feel, however, that the contract, in its present form, would stand up in a court of law, since it is completely one-sided, binding a player to one team for life, while the club must give him only ten days notice before releasing him.
The nearest example to a test case occured when Hal Chase gave the Chicago White Sox 10 days notice before jumping to the Buffalo Club of the short-lived Federal League about 30 years ago. Buffalo courts refused to issue an injunction against him.
Despite the player-owner meeting and the rebuff the union received in Pittsburgh, Murphy plans to continue the Guild along the same lines that it has been running, that is, to attempt to get all the ball players to join and to get recognition from the club owners.
Dave Egan thinks he ought to be in the Hall of Fame.