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This Day in Yankees History: SCOTUS gets in the game

An antitrust decision reshapes the game and Irabu comes to town

Supreme Court To Hear Three Cases Involving Trump Financial Records Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

With the start of the 2020 season delayed for the foreseeable future, the Pinstripe Alley team decided to revive the program in a slightly different format. These daily posts will highlight a few key moments in Yankees history on a given date, as well as recognize players born on the day. Let’s take a trip down memory lane.

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This Day in Yankees History (May 29)

98 years ago

One of the most consequential legal decisions in sports history, the US Supreme Court rules that Major League Baseball is exempt from the Sherman Antitrust Act, essentially giving MLB license to operate as a monopoly. Sitting Justice Alito gives more of a breakdown of the decision here, but MLB owners have used this decision to build barriers to other professional leagues attempting to compete on a national level.

Interestingly, the second part of the decision, that MLB was exempt from laws regulating interstate commerce, was struck down in Flood v. Kuhn (1972), however both in that decision and subsequent challenges, has consistently upheld MLB’s ability to work as a monopoly in the United States.

The decision meant that MLB could control the baseball marketplace in a way that helped it grow into the national force it is today, but can certainly be criticized for leading to anticompetitive practices, abuse of labor and a basis of general moral opposition to monopolies. The Yankees have been one of the biggest beneficiaries of this decision, as their control over stars like Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle may not have been possible in a more competitive landscape.

23 years ago

The Yankees dabble in the Japanese free agent market, landing ace pitcher Hideki Irabu in a trade with the Padres, who had intially purchased him from Lotte in the NPB, and inked the right-hander to a four year deal worth $12.8 million. Irabu struggled mightily in the Bronx, with only one “good” season coming in 1998, and tensions with fans and ownership.

He was done in New York after the 1999 season, out of MLB three years later, and while he did bounce back to respectability in Japan, he battled depression the rest of his life and tragically died by suicide in 2011.

4 years ago

We’ll end with something significantly less serious than legal decisions and personal tragedy. The Yankees beat the Rays 2-1, winning a game where the only recorded one hit - a two run home run from All-Star Starlin Castro.

As far as I can tell, this is only the 66th time a team has won with only one hit, with the Yankees — then Highlanders — accomplishing the feat in 1914, and the Diamondbacks most recently pulling it off last year.

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We thank Baseball-Reference, Nationalpastime.com, and FanGraphs for providing background information for these posts.