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The Old Ball Game: Organization of Nineteenth Century Professional Base Ball Clubs


  • Matthew Baker

    (United States Naval Academy)

  • Thomas J. Miceli

    (University of Connecticut)

  • William J. Ryczek

    (Colebrook Financial Co.)


The first professional base ball clubs came in two varieties: stock clubs, which paid their players fixed wages, and player cooperatives, in which players shared the proceeds after expenses. We argue that stock clubs were formed with players of known ability, while co-ops were formed with players of unknown ability. Although residual claimancy served to screen out players of inferior ability in co-ops, the process was imperfect due to the team production problem. Based on this argument, we suggest that co-ops functioned as an early minor league system where untried players could seek to prove themselves and eventually move up to wage teams. Empirical analysis of data on player performance and experience in early professional base ball provides support for the theory.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthew Baker & Thomas J. Miceli & William J. Ryczek, 2001. "The Old Ball Game: Organization of Nineteenth Century Professional Base Ball Clubs," Working papers 2002-46, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics, revised Nov 2002.
  • Handle: RePEc:uct:uconnp:2002-46

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    JEL classification:

    • L14 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Transactional Relationships; Contracts and Reputation
    • L23 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Organization of Production


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