University of Cincinnati Law Review


Sam C. Ehrlich


As professional baseball’s unique exemption to antitrust law celebrates its one-hundredth year of existence, it faces a new attack in Nostalgia Partners v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, a claim by a group of minor league owners shut out of MLB’s recent restructuring of its minor league affiliate system. While the baseball exemption has weathered dozens of similar challenges over the past century, the Nostalgia Partners plaintiffs claim that circumstances on the Supreme Court have changed enough that the justices would be willing to overturn or narrow the exemption in their favor. This claim rests with the Court’s unanimous decision in NCAA v. Alston refusing to grant intercollegiate athletics similar antitrust immunity.

This Article examines the Nostalgia Partners claim that Alston changed the game for the baseball exemption by comparing the historical and contextual circumstances of the two cases. In doing so, this Article compares central differences in interpretation of key baseball exemption jurisprudence to similar conditions that afforded the Supreme Court an opportunity to reject the NCAA’s stare decisis-based claim to antitrust protection. Ultimately, however, this Article finds that the comparison breaks down in several key areas, including most critically the vast differences in the strength of the precedent that each claim to immunity relies upon. As such, we can only assume that the next one hundred years will feature similar special treatment for baseball under the antitrust laws—regardless of Alston and of that special treatment’s well-noted “‘unrealistic’ and ‘inconsistent’ and ‘aberration[al]’” nature.