- The Washington Times - Friday, August 30, 2002

Baseball's long-cherished antitrust exemption again will be placed in congressional cross-hairs if Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, gets his way.
With players set to go on strike today, Specter yesterday wrote Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, requesting hearings on the exemption. Leahy spokesman David Carle confirmed that Leahy will consider scheduling hearings if the strike becomes reality.
"There is no doubt that a strike would be Major League Baseball's way of saying let the public be damned," Specter wrote. "If Baseball is determined to kill the goose that lays the golden egg, Congress should send a clear message to the owners and players for a plague on both your houses."
If Specter's request for a hearing is granted, it will join the nearly 50 other times since 1989 that Congress has taken aim on the 80-year-old exemption. With only slight modifications along the way, the exemption which allows baseball to stop and start play and regulate the number of franchises it has at will has survived.
Most recently, both the Senate and House held hearings last winter on the exemption after baseball owners announced their intent to shut down two franchises. The two hearings made for rather engaging political theater, most notably when Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura called MLB's economic structure "asinine."
But the pomp and circumstance led nowhere, and no vote to eliminate the exemption was taken.
Specter himself has tangled with pro sports on numerous occasions, most notably in 1999, when he unsuccessfully attempted to create federal legislation for a 50 percent cap on public sector contributions for any professional stadium developments.


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