One of the loudest complaints of the modern day sports fan is that he can't flip through his newspaper or turn on the tube without being inundated with the business and criminal aspects of the games they love. Though John Helyar's 1995 Lords of the Realm tackles the business aspects of baseball's history head-on, it does so in a vivid, insightful, page-turning style. If you could pick just one book to read on the history of baseball, Lords of the Realm may be your best bet for a well-rounded, entertaining read:
And yet the Major League Baseball Players Association had some things going for it. One was the very nature of the sport. Football players, [Marvin] Miller always figured, would have been tougher to organize. The players had shorter careers and lesser investment in the issues. The authority of the coach (read: management) was unquestioned. As Howard Slusher, a football player-agent, would later put it, "A football player believes in rules and regulations and order. From the day they put on pads, they listen to commands."
The players were also stratified by position. The elite ones---particularly the quarterbacks---were pampered by management. Thus, in any dispute, the marquee players were as likely to side with owners as fellow players. In 1974, when the NFL players staged a forty-two-day training-camp strike, rookies and free agents blithely crossed the picket lines. The strike was called off and it took three years to negotiate a labor contract.
Football players came into the pros as publicized All-Americans. Baseball players reached the majors after brutal minor league apprenticeships: long bus rides, rickety ballparks, scant pay, cramped apartments. As pitcher Mike Marshall put it, "We weren't BMOC's."
The experience drew players together and fostered, in many, a permanent cynicism about management. They didn't act on it, but they had a mind-set a union organizer could work with. They'd already shown some capacity for group-think.