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Article:Judge Sonia Sotomayor Blamed the Owners

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by Harold Friend

There was no World Champion of baseball in 1994 because the baseball owners wanted to eliminate both the free agent system and salary arbitration. The players' reaction was swift and forceful. At the completion of games on August 12, baseball had another strike.

Replacement Player Threat

On March 30, 1995, 26 of the 28 baseball owners voted to use replacement players if their dispute with Don Fehr's union could not be resolved by the start of the season. The Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays opposed the plan, and Yankees' owner George Steinbrenner changed his position to support the use of replacement players, despite the fact that he had stated their use would be a tragic mistake. Mr. Steinbrenner explained that he was supporting his friend, commissioner Alan Selig.

Judge Sotomayor Issues an Injunction

The next day, United States District Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor held a two hour hearing in which she grilled baseball owners and the players' union. It took her only 15 minutes to issue an injunction, telling the owners that they didn't have the right to unilaterally eliminate the free agent system and salary arbitration while negotiations for a new contract were ongoing. The injunction meant that the players would end their strike and negotiate, but of greater significance, it meant that the owners would be liable for millions of dollars in fines if they ordered a lock out.

Judge Sotomayor's decision was significant. She believed that "The strike has placed the entire concept of collective bargaining on trial."

Sonia Sotomayor and Baseball

Sonia Sotomayor grew up a housing project a few short miles from the real Yankee Stadium. Although not an avid fan, her friends confided that she occasionally managed to take in an afternoon game. She explained that "You can't grow up in the South Bronx without knowing about baseball."

Sonia Sotomayor, at the age of 40, was the youngest judge in New York's Southern District. She was the first Puerto Rican appointed to the Federal bench in New York, was described as tough, tenacious, and smart. and could not be intimidated by the eminence or power of any party or of the media. The injunction she issued saved the 1995 baseball season.

The Public Trust

Former commissioner Bart Giamatti considered baseball to be a public trust. The game's integrity was foremost in eyes of the public. The public trust meant that there would be baseball and there would be a World Series, but the owners' actions and the players' responses shattered that trust. There was no baseball after August 12, and for the first time since 1904, there was no World Series. Money was more important to owners and players than the public trust in the game.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor Blamed the Owners

Sonia Sotomayor identified the owners as the villains because they defied the country's labor laws. She ruled that the owners had made "unlawful unilateral changes" in working terms and conditions. Judge Sotomayor's ruling preventing the owners from embarrassing themselves by using replacement players and calling them major leaguers. A tremendous amount of damage had been done, but at least Sonia Sotomayor stopped the bleeding. The wounds will remain forever.


By MURRAY CHASS. (1995, March 31). Owners Vote to Use Replacements as Talks Go On :Only two days before opening day, the eyes of baseball are on a judge. Owners Formally Authorize Use of Replacement Players. New York Times (1857-Current file),p. B7. Retrieved November 23, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 115852575).

Sonia Sotomayor. (1995, April 1). Strike-Zone ArbitratorBy JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr :Woman in the News. New York Times (1857-Current file),1. Retrieved November 23, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 117223

DAVE ANDERSON. (1995, April 3). There's No Winner, Only a Big Loser :There Is No Winner Here, Only a Big Loser BASEBALL Sports of The Times. New York Times (1857-Current file),p. C1. Retrieved November 24, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 116798899).

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