John Ben Shepperd: Presidents of Minor Baseball Leagues

October 17, 1953

Presidents of Minor Baseball Leagues (Dallas, Texas)

As a result of a lawsuit recently the Supreme Court is now considering the question of whether baseball is a sport or a business. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes ruled 30 years ago that it was a sport. I believe it is still a sport; and I also believe it ought to be run like a sport.

Baseball is like Democracy. Democratic government begins to crumble when the major part of it gets so far away from the people that they cannot see those who govern them walking on the streets. And the farther baseball gets from the sandlot—the more it becomes centralized under high authority and operated on a vast scale from the top down instead of the bottom up—the closer it becomes to that same condition of top-heaviness that has ruined many a free government and many a great enterprise.

At this meeting, and at every such meeting, you are faced with a moral obligation. Baseball belongs to the people. It is a national institution, and it’s your job to keep it a national institution. The role of the major leagues is that of inspiring the youth of our country to great achievement, and of providing an ultimate goal for which they can strive idealistically. The role of the minor leagues should be that of the bedrock on which the major leagues rest. The major leagues ought not to overburden or weaken the foundation on which they stand, and the minors ought not to forget that they function as the American youth’s stairway to the stars.

I know that all you do here will be done for the good of baseball as a great game, a great sport, and a great expression of our national spirit and ideals.

Please note: The views expressed in these speeches were those of John Ben Shepperd, and do not necessarily represent the views of the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute or the University of Texas Permian Basin.