GLR Meets MLB: Albany Government Law Review’s spring symposium, Baseball and the Law: America’s National Pastimes

Written by Brady Begeal, Topics Chair, Albany Government Law Review Member

The Albany Government Law Review’s spring symposium entitled “Baseball and the Law: America’s National Pastimes” kicked off with a provocative lecture by Professor Paul Finkelman on steroids in baseball.  His presentation, “A Contrarian View of Steroids: What’s Wrong with Being All You Can Be?” challenged many mainstream opinions and viewpoints of modern baseball players who use steroids.

Professor Finkelman began by giving the audience his thoughts on the Barry Bonds perjury trial.  He explained that the government’s prosecution of Bonds is a selective prosecution, used to make a public example of Bonds.  Finkelman went on to argue that the use of steroids in baseball is not a new phenomenon, and that players have been using drugs and performance enhancers since baseball began.  Many of the most beloved Hall-of-Famers were known to abuse illegal substances, including steroids.  Finkelman presented little-known substance abuse facts about players like Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, Keith Hernandez, Pud Galvin, and Babe Ruth.

The lecture continued with Professor Finkelman asking the audience, “Is using steroids really ‘cheating?’”  Finkelman referenced the Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa time period as the “wild, wild west” where steroids weren’t even a violation in baseball.  He also explained that amphetamines called “greenies” were readily used and accepted in baseball as a way for players to play 160 games and not burn-out.  So, is it really fair to condemn McGwire, Sosa, and others, and to exclude them from the hall of fame?

Finkelman concluded by asking the audience, who is to blame for the rampant use of illegal substances and performance enhancers.  Finkelman’s answer was the Players Association, for their inability to address steroid use and for ignoring the health and safety of the players.  Finally, Finkelman left the audience to ponder why a society who readily accepts enhancing performance in other areas of life and entertainment is so willing to denounce baseball players who have been caught using.

Eric Bowman, class of 1990, wrapped up the morning with his lecture entitled “From the Dominican Republic to the United States: An Alumnus’s perspective on Being an International Sports Agent.”  Bowman described how he was able to get into the field of international sports law and how his experiences led him to the Dominican Republic.

Bowman explained how impoverished children playing baseball on run-down Dominican sandlots make there way to America and become MLB superstars.  He described how local Dominican agents and lawyers regularly commit fraud by forging birth certificates and marriage certificates as a way to get players into America.  He also explained the troubles he has faced in the corrupt Dominican courts.

Bowman went on to tell the audience about the academy system in the Dominican.  MLB teams invest in local Dominican training facilities that develop young Dominican children into major league-quality baseball players.  As soon as those children turn 16, they are either signed by MLB teams, or cast aside, never to be considered again by MLB scouts.  Bowman explained that his firm has tried to find its niche by representing 17 and 18 year-old Dominican players who may have taken a little longer to develop.  His firm often brings those players to America where they can get a prep-school education and hopefully get drafted through the American draft system.

Finally, Bowman addressed the inescapable issue of steroid use in baseball.  He explained that MLB teams test the Dominican players, but not until after they are signed.  Unfortunately, as a result, many of the Dominican children get “juiced up” by their trainers during the few critical development years before the players turn age 16.

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