It seems that Major League Baseball is mentioned in the news more often for steroid-related scandals than for actual sports news. While steroids have certainly become a major problem for MLB, the media rarely addresses the subject of the league’s culture of alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse in MLB clubhouses is usually only highlighted following a tragedy, such as the death of Josh Hancock, a St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher, who died in an alcohol-related car accident in 2007.

Alcohol may be as much a part of baseball as the sport is a part of American culture. Unfortunately, MLB’s alcohol policy has done little to discourage heavy drinking among players. This policy could lead to substantial liability for the league and it’s time that MLB executives start paying attention to this serious legal and safety problem.

Don’t miss One Strike and You’re Out: Alcohol in the Major League Baseball Clubhouse in the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law‘s Winter 2009 edition. The Note abstract follows.

Abstract:

In the past decade, much has been written about Major League Baseball’s (MLB) mistaken policies regarding performance-enhancing substance abuse by players. MLB executives are shortsighted, however, if they believe that steroids are the only substances being abused by players. Along with performance-enhancing drugs, professional baseball has a long-standing history of alcohol abuse. Steroids may provide better headlines—Congress has never held an investigation into alcohol abuse by professional athletes—but professional baseball faces a real danger from the unchecked liability of allowing players to overindulge at the ballpark and drive home shortly thereafter. By serving beer in the clubhouse after games, clubs are subjecting themselves, their players, and the public to undue danger.

This Note asks whether an MLB club would be vicariously liable for injuries to third parties resulting from the drunk driving of players who drank club-provided alcohol following a game. To address this question, the Note first will show that baseball and alcohol have a long and often negative history. Subsequently, it discusses the legal framework for third-party liability, describing three formulations of vicarious liability that may create liability for the clubs. Next, this Note argues that MLB clubs could be held liable under both standard theories of third-party liability as well as respondeat superior employer liability. Finally, this Note proposes potential and easy solutions to MLB’s problem.

Note Author: Steven B. Berneman

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2 Responses to One Strike and You're Out: Alcohol in the Major League Baseball Clubhouse

  1. Steve Hammonds says:

    I was reading your article at one time during Babe Ruth time there was the colition was illegal But the baseball players never went to jail even though showed up at games drunk

  2. hb says:

    How is MLB any different than any other party? This sounds like Torts 1 to me. I’m more than troubled by yet more calls by authors of this journal to push and rush Congress into things it shouldn’t be in. Perhaps there hasn’t been an ‘investigation’ since alcohol is LEGAL, as opposed to certain substances requiring a hypodermic needle.

    Could a player not bring in his own alcohol to the clubhouse?

    I really have to question the claim of long standing ‘abuse’. Define abuse. I agree that baseball has legendary stories of many players getting trashed before, during and after the games. Read Ball Four and The Bronx Zoo for some of the savory details. And the old-timers probably spent more time at the saloon than at the ballpark.

    But abuse? Correlation…to what? Do we know if ballplayers have higher rates of proven alcoholism than the rest of the populace? Do we know if it’s purely because of beer served in the clubhouse?

    I guess if alcohol was illegal, if alcohol was a performance-enhancing drug, if there was a substantial, statistically verifiable pattern of alcohol related accidents, murders, abuses of all kinds by baseball players after leaving the clubhouse…THEN I might hope Congress could do a little snooping. Until then…

    This I can’t wait to read.