Five years ago a congressional committee brushed aside baseball's horsehide curtain for a look at the business heartland which lies behind it. The committee recommended no new legislation and two years later a Supreme Court decision left professional baseball still unengaged in interstate commerce and free to follow its special financial way.
The way, somehow, has remained obscure to the naked eye. But in this issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Robert Coughlan writes the first of a two-part analysis of the curtained world in which baseball tots up its accounts. The story, requiring months of interviews, research and cross-checking by SI's reporters and correspondents, was hard to come by because, as Coughlan notes, businesswise baseball "is curiously mute" and "becomes at the end of the season a private bookkeeping matter."
The game arouses the kind of affection which gives its followers at some point in their lives a hankering to own a major league club—much as everyone has once daydreamed of being proprietor of such a supremely luxurious yacht as the Christina, on pages 46-50. Coughlan's story, I think, simplifies the fact that for most of us, one eventuality is hardly more likely than the other.
Still, the aspirations will undoubtedly continue as strong as ever. Coughlan's revelations of the kind of money needed to acquire a franchise and build a club, together with his description of baseball's techniques for staying in business, will from now on firmly ground at least my own baseball dreams in reality, while not at all diminishing the fun of having them.
February 27, 1956
The baseball analysis is Robert Coughlan's fifth appearance in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. His first was The Unknown Story of Jack Dempsey (Jan. 10, '55), followed by How the IBC Runs Boxing, which appeared in three parts. Later he wrote (April 4, '55) about billiards' Willie Mosconi, a game Coughlan himself enjoys with less facility but no less devotion than Mosconi.
In addition to an eminent career as author of books and magazine articles (he has been for the past seven years a staff writer for LIFE), Coughlan brings to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and baseball a thorough knowledge of the involved realms of finance—nowhere more involved than in baseball—which he acquired during six years as an associate editor of FORTUNE.