They were skilled at playing ball,
but they were still employees and would be treated as such:
they would play for what we were willing to pay them,
or they wouldn’t play at all;
what was the best way of ensuring
that all the magnates would act in a like manner?
In 1879 we came up with the reserve rule:
each team would reserve five players for next season’s team,
players that no other team could negotiate with
We tried to sell it as an honor
to those so reserved
(without any additional compensation for the honor),
but very few players bought it
Eventually all players were subject to the rule,
and it was construed by us
to roll over in perpetuity
As long as we stayed out of the courts,
or found a judge who was a baseball fan,
we were on solid ground,
and profits soared