The Imperfect Diamond


The Imperfect Diamond

A History of Baseball's Labor Wars


Lee Lowenfish
Foreword by Robert W. Creamer
With a new introduction and epilogue by the author

352 pages
24 illustrations, 1 glossary


April 2010


$19.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

From the introduction of the reserve clause in 1879 to the lockout and new basic agreement of 1990, baseball players have been engaged in one of the longest and most colorful labor struggles in our nation’s history. The Imperfect Diamond tells the stories of the players and their opponents, the powerful owners: how John Montgomery Ward led the Players League Rebellion of 1890; the rise and fall of David Fultz and the Baseball Players Fraternity (1912–18); the iron-fisted regime of Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis; the case of Danny Gardella vs. Happy Chandler and the blacklisting of the players who jumped to the Mexican League; the founding of the Baseball Players Association in 1953 and the tempestuous but triumphant reign of Marvin Miller; the struggles of Curt Flood, Andy Messersmith, and Dave McNally, and how they brought about the demise of the reserve clause; the unprecedented midseason strike of 1981 and the collusion cases of the late 1980s.
In the epilogue for this Bison Books edition, Lee Lowenfish guides the reader through the turbulent 1990s and first decade of the twenty-first century, covering expansion teams, the monumental 1994 strike, and performance-enhancing drugs. Listed by the Society of American Baseball Research as one of the fifty essential baseball books, The Imperfect Diamond will stand for years to come as the source for the real story behind America’s national pastime.

Author Bio

Lee Lowenfish, a historian, journalist, broadcaster, and jazz commentator, is the author of Branch Rickey: Baseball’s Ferocious Gentleman, available in a Bison Books edition. Robert W. Creamer, formerly a writer and senior editor for Sports Illustrated, is the author of several books, including, Stengel: His Life and Times and Baseball and Other Matters in 1941, both available in Bison Books editions.


“If anyone wants to get a handle on baseball today—free agencies, the money, the relationships between players and owners, etc.—this book is a must.”—Red Barber, National Public Radio

“The seminal study of baseball’s labor history.”—USA Today Baseball Weekly

“Thorough and comprehensive, the clarity of the prose is a welcome respite from traditional ‘baseballese.’ . . . An important work, not only for baseball history, but also for U.S. history, the labor movement, and the history of capitalism.”—Library Journal

“A dramatic, stirring portrayal of traditional confrontation between labor and management. . . . An absorbing account of a hitherto little-publicized American labor movement.”—New Republic

“Not only an entertaining book, and not only a complete history of this important topic . . . it sets the standards for precision and presentation that other baseball authors should strive to match.”—Keith Olbermann, Baseball Magazine

"If the Baseball Hall of Fame were to assemble a compilation of books that belong in a business of baseball canon, Lee Lowenfish's third edition of Imperfect Diamond would easily hold a prominent spot on the list."—Wayne McDonnell,

Table of Contents

Foreword by Robert W. Creamer
Prologue: The Messersmith-McNally Decision
Part I: John Montgomery Ward and the Bitter Legacy of the Players League Revolt of 1890
1. The Rebellion of the Brotherhood of Professional Baseball Players in 1889
2. The Rise and Fall of the Players League of 1890
Part II: The Age of Fitful Fraternity, 1900-1920
3. Ban Johnson and the Rise of the American League and the Failure of the Players Protective Association
4. David Fultz and the Creation of the Professional Baseball Players Fraternity of 1912
5. The Rise and Fall of the Federal League and the Players Fraternity
Part III: The Age of Landis, 1921-1944
6. The Shield of Holmes and the First Years of Commissioner Landis
7. A Czar Tries to Achieve Democracy
Part IV: 1946: Year of the Great Challenges
8. A Tale of Three Veterans
9. A Prophetic Failure: Robert Murphy and the American Baseball Guild of 1946
10. Gardella vs. Chandler: The Case that Almost Toppled a Monopoly
Part V: Seedlings of Change in a Quiet Decade
11. The Celler Sub-Committee Hearings of 1951
12. The Birth of the Major League Baseball Players Association
Part VI: The Coming-of-Age of the Major League Baseball Players Association
13. The Arrival of Marvin Miller
14. Curt Flood and the End to the Perpetual Reserve Clause
Part VII: The Wars of the Monopolies: Players Versus Owners, 1980-1990
15. The Showdown of 1981: The Unprecedented 51-day Strike
16. Old Wine in New Bottles: From Strike to Collusion to Lockout
Epilogue: The Cataclysmic Strike of 1994 and the Recovery
Bibliographical Notes
Glossary of Terms

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