BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Just in time for baseball’s Opening Day on March 28, an Indiana University Kelley School of Business professor has learned his research on why Major League Baseball shouldn’t be immune from tort liability when fans are injured will receive a major award.
Nathaniel Grow’s article, “The Faulty Law and Economics of the ‘Baseball Rule,’” published in the William & Mary Law Review last spring, has received the SABR Baseball Research Award from the Society for American Baseball Research.
The SABR Baseball Research Award honors those whose outstanding research projects completed during the preceding calendar year have significantly expanded our knowledge or understanding of baseball.
Grow, an associate professor of business law and ethics (pictured left), will be awarded the honor a few home runs away from Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, at the Society for American Baseball Research’s annual conference June 26-30.
As described in an IU news release, Grow wrote that the risk of fans being hit by a foul ball or errant bat at games has increased in recent years and that the spectator experience is very different from what it was a century ago. His research argued that it is time to abolish the so-called “Baseball Rule,” a legal doctrine established in 1913 to immunize baseball teams from liability.
In its announcement, the awards committee said, “The so-called ‘Baseball Rule,’ a legal structure generally holding baseball harmless from the potentially dangerous foreseeable consequences of attending a game, has been a standard of law for more than a century. In general, courts have found that fans assume liability for such threats as foul balls flying into stands so long as ballparks provide some protected areas. This paper presents statistical evidence for a re-thinking of that liability limitation. It is particularly interesting when understood in the context of the parallel move by MLB and its teams to extend protective netting in ballparks.”
Also honored by the SABR were the late Peter Bjarkman, author of “Fidel Castro and Baseball: The Untold Story,” and Bill Nowlin, author of “Tom Yawkey: Patriarch of the Boston Red Sox.”
Grow’s research garnered media attention after its release, including in articles published by the Washington Post, New York Times and Indianapolis Star. An article he wrote about the paper for TheConversation.com was republished by news organizations around country, including the San Francisco Chronicle, the Lee Enterprises newspaper chain and Fatherly.com.
Also being honored is Grow’s co-author Zachary Flagel, now a law student at Duke University, who was one of his students when he was a faculty member at the University of Georgia.
This the second year in a row that the Kelley School has been recognized by the Society for American Baseball Research. In 2018, Kelley MBA students Justin Booms, Shayn Kail, Greg Khoury, Nick Pacchioli, and Yin-Cheng Tai finished second in SABR’s annual analytics case competition.