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Baseball Anti-Trust Battle Reaches Minnesota Supreme Court
By Elizabeth Stawicki
February 3, 1999
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A lawyer for the Minnesota Twins asked the State Supreme Court today to block Attorney General Mike Hatch's investigation into whether the ball club broke anti-trust laws. The A.G.'s office wants to look into whether Major League Baseball conspired to keep other baseball teams from locating to Minnesota if the Twins made good on their threat to move to North Carolina.

THE MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE says it wants to determine whether the letter of intent between Twins owner Carl Pohlad and North Carolina businessman Don Beaver was a sham designed to pressure taxpayers into funding a new stadium.

Major League Baseball and the Twins contend an investigation is pointless because baseball has been exempt from anti-trust laws since 1922. Anti-trust laws ban businesses from colluding to fix prices or a market.

Using baseball metaphors, Twins Attorney Roger Magnuson told Justices the "Supreme Umpire", that is the U.S. Supreme Court, had already spoken: baseball was governed under a nationwide league structure and asking it to adhere to individual state rules would create chaos. Magunuson cited the Braves move from Milwaukee to Atlanta as an example.

Magnuson: The Attorney General lurches into action representing the interests of the State of Wisconsin and gets an injunction ordering the team to move back from Atlanta. Then, some of the interests in Texas representing the ownership lurch into action and get a federal court...
Magnuson went on to say that if Minnesota's Attorney General is allowed to proceed with its investigation, the same problems will result. He asked justices to follow Wisconsin's Supreme Court which refused to block the Braves from moving from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1965.
Magnuson: The Supreme Court said "enough already, we're going to end this chaos and in a very courageous decision because people are very interested in whether the Braves go to Atlanta". The Wisconsin Supreme Court said this anti-trust investigation could not go forward.
More recently, though, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that state's attorney general could investigate Major League Baseball to obtain private files from the National League on whether the league conspired to block the San Francisco Giants from moving to Tampa Bay. The Florida court said baseball's anti-trust exemption does not extend to the sale and location of teams.

Assistant Attorney General Peter Hoffrening says the State's case is strengthened on Florida's ruling as information from newspaper accounts. He quoted on anonymous baseball owner.
Hoffrening: Wwho said that he wanted to get stadiums in San Diego and Montreal and Pittsburgh and he thought that this Twins/Beaver situation would put the other communities on notice that they better build the stadiums. So the problem may not be a local problem.
That comment drew a question from Justice James Gilbert.
Gilbert: It appears that Minnesota is trying to have it both ways. On the one hand you've got the legislative branch that denied a request to give financial help to the Twins, you've got the Attorney General part of the executive branch threatening to punish them if they threaten to move. Can you explain why this would be an anti-trust violation?

Hoffrening: It's possible that the independent owners of baseball may be trying to affect the price of stadiums here and elsewhere.
The Attorney General's office doesn't have to prove now that the Twins and Major League Baseball broke the law; only that it has a reasonable basis for starting an investigation. The State's quoted newspaper sources brought skepticism from Justice Paul Anderson.
Anderson: Is this the foundation, the basis for which you want to unleash this rather major investigation? I mean what do you have? Tell me what you have that provides you with a reasonable belief that somebody might violate one of minnesota's statutes?

Peter Hoffrening: The sports economists that have noted that the move from Minnesota to North Carolina could be a move against self interest; a move that would benefit the larger market teams by helping to obtain publicly subsidized teams in other areas. We do wish we had a stronger record but that is why we're attempting to investigate.
A decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court is expected in about three months.

Elizabeth Stawicki covers legal issues for Minnesota Public Radio. You can reach her at