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Baseball and the Rule of Law Revisited

35 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2008 Last revised: 12 Aug 2009

Paul Finkelman

University of Pittsburgh, School of Law; Albany Law School - Government Law Center

Date Written: 2002


This is a revised and updated version of my 1999 article "Baseball and the Rule of Law." In both articles, I argue that baseball is a highly legalistic game that can be used to help us understand how the rule of law operates in courts. The article notes that baseball is the only sport that requires a judicial ruling - a ruling by an umpire - for every play. No player is out or safe, no pitch is a strike or a ball until the umpire makes a ruling that is, in effect, a judicial determination. The article explains how the interpretation of baseball rules (umpires who call high strike zones or low strike zones for example) teach players and fans the nature of judicial interpretation. The article also examines briefly the controversy over the ownership of valuable baseballs caught by fans, the legal issues surrounding stadium franchises, baseball and antitrust, and the way in which baseball affected civil rights through the integration of the Major Leagues starting with Jackie Robinson in 1947.

Keywords: rule of law, judicial interpretation, baseball and the law

Suggested Citation

Finkelman, Paul, Baseball and the Rule of Law Revisited (2002). Thomas Jefferson Law Review, Vol. 25, No. 17, 2002. Available at SSRN:

Paul Finkelman (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh, School of Law ( email )

3900 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States
412-648-2079 (Phone)

Albany Law School - Government Law Center ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States

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