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Curt Flood Trial and Appeals: 1970-72

Three Strikes …

By the time that Judge Cooper issued his decision, Flood himself had gone off to Europe, but his lawyers immediately commenced the appeals process. To the astonishment of many, however, in November 1970, Flood signed a contract with the Washington Senators, accepting the reserve clause but with the provision that this would have no bearing on his legal suit. He had barely started the 1971 season, when on April 7 the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion upholding Judge Cooper's finding. Then on April 27, citing "very serious personal problems," Flood quit baseball and flew off to Spain. Again, though, the appeals process continued, this time to the Supreme Court.

On March 20, 1972, the full Court heard the oral arguments. This time, the baseball establishment took a new line, arguing that the issue was really one merely of labor-management bargaining. They went even further and said that the true plaintiff in this case should be the Major League Players Association, since it had accepted the terms Flood was opposing. Goldberg, meanwhile, stressed that the Court should uphold their decisions in other related cases involving practices counter to antitrust laws.

The Supreme Court issued its decision on June 19, 1972, upholding the lower court's findings by a decision of 5-3. At least as controversial as the vote itself was the language of the majority's decision, for it sounded less like a jurists' finding than a tribute to the national pastime. It cited dozens of baseball "legends," from Cap Anson and Babe Ruth to "Casey at the Bat" and "Tinker to Evers to Chance." But even though it upheld the reserve clause, the majority described it as an "aberration" and an "anomaly" and concluded, "It is time the Congress acted to solve this problem."

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972Curt Flood Trial and Appeals: 1970-72 - Flood's Conditioning, The Playoffs, Three Strikes …, Extra Innings, Suggestions For Further Reading