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Show Me the Money: Labor/Management Issues in Professional Baseball
What to Know
Teaching Time
1 45 minute class period
Grade Level
High School
  • Economics
  • Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening
  • History
  • Mathematics
Historical Period
  • Development of the Industrial Pennsylvania - 1877-1900
  • The Emergence of Modern Pennsylvania - 1901-1928
Baseball players in the late 19th century enjoyed few luxuries. Low salaries, no benefits, and a lack of job security were the order of the day. Baseball owners were powerful men who claimed that they could not make money unless they were able to strictly control the salaries of their players. Labor-management battles in baseball reflected the violent struggle between working men and big business in the "real" working world. Unlike the real world, however, baseball owners had a tool which allowed them to manipulate the salary structure. Owners claimed that they had the right to "reserve" their best players from the other team owners. Therefore, players were not allowed to sell their services in an open and free market. John Montgomery Ward, an accomplished player from Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, believed that this system was unfair to the players. He likened baseball's reserve clause to slavery and formed the first players" union in 1885. In this lesson, students will compare 19th century baseball player salaries with the salaries of working people during that time period. They will read and analyze the contrasting statements of John Montgomery Ward and baseball owners from that time. Then, they will debate and evaluate the merits of both the player and management positions. As a concluding assignment students will compare the salaries of union and non-union employees.


1. Compare and contrast the economic status of baseball players and working people in the 1880-1920 time frame. 2. Critically analyze primary source documents. 3. Identify the effects of a free market versus a restrictive market on labor salaries.

Standards Alignment

  • Economics

    6.2.12. B. Evaluate the operation of noncompetitive markets.
    6.5.12. A. Analyze the factors influencing wages.

  • History

    8.1.12. B. Synthesize and evaluate historical sources.
    8.2.12. A. Evaluate the political and cultural contributions of individuals and groups to Pennsylvania history from 1890 to Present.
    8.3.12. A. Identify and evaluate the political and cultural contributions of individuals and groups to United States history from 1890 to Present.
    8.3.12. C. Evaluate how continuity and change has influenced United States history from 1890 to Present.

  • Mathematics

    2.2.11. A. Develop and use computation concepts, operations, and procedures with real numbers in problem-solving situations.

  • Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening

    1.1.11 G. Demonstrate after reading understanding and interpretation of both fiction and nonfiction text, including public documents.
    1.2.11. A. Read and understand essential content of informational texts and documents in all academic areas.
    1.5.11. A. Write with a sharp, distinct focus.
    1.5.11. B. Write using well-developed content appropriate for the topic.
    1.5.11. C. Write with controlled and/or subtle organization.
    1.5.11. D. Write with a command of the stylistic aspects of composition
    1.5.11. F. Edit writing using the conventions of language.
    1.6.11. A. Listen to others.
    1.6.11. D. Contribute to discussions.
    1.6.11. E. Participate in small and large group discussions and presentations.
    1.8.11. B. Locate information using appropriate sources and strategies.

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