MLB History: National Commission Rules Injured Players Deserve Pay

There was a time when MLB owners ruled the roost with an iron fist. Players could be let go or suspended for any reason, including being injured for more than 15 days. That had to change.

In the early days of the MLB, players were often considered interchangeable. Unless one was a true star, a team would release or replace a player on a whim, with zero recourse. Even things such as enjoying a drink or two could lead to being let go. And if a player was considered a “problem,” they could be blacklisted, no longer able to appear in the Majors again.

The same fate could happen to an injured player. If a player was injured for more than 15 days, they could be suspended, with the team no longer responsible for paying them for the duration of that injury. Given that games were played without helmets, pitchers routinely throwing 300 or more innings, and a lack of safety gear, injuries were a common occurrence.

Something had to change. Players had absolutely no security in the event of an injury, even if that ailment occurred while playing for the team. And so, on this day in 1916, the National Commission, a three person group that managed the game prior to the office of the Commissioner came into being, acted upon this situation.

On this day in 1916, it was decreed that MLB teams had to give injured players the full amount due to them for the duration of their contracts. No longer could these players be suspended without pay after 15 games, as had been the case previously.

Ownership still had a great deal of power. With the reserve clause, player movement was limited to trades or a player being signed after being released. Players did not have any real rights when it came to contracts and salaries, as they were at the mercy of what teams would offer. If they did not like the terms of the deal, they could sit out, as Amos Rusie infamously did at the turn of the century. But that sort of move also took away the player’s livelihood, making such a move unlikely.

Player rights still had a long way to go, but on this day in 1916, a step in the right direction was taken. MLB teams could no longer suspend players without pay if they were injured for more than 15 games.

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