Anheuser-Busch sues Major League Baseball


Anheuser-Busch has sued Major League Baseball, claiming that they had an agreement to continue their longstanding sponsorship deal that has AB brands as the official beer in every park but four of ’em. The article doesn’t list the four, but I’m guessing Coors Field and Miller Park are two of them. Maybe Toronto is a third.  My guess for the fourth: Rogue Park in Portland, Oregon, home to the new Portland expansion team, with Craig Calcaterra as their highly-paid P.A. announcer.  Or maybe I dreamed that. (UPDATE: The Blue Jays and the White Sox appear to be the other two, based on the list at the bottom of this press release).

The claim in the lawsuit is that Anheuser-Busch and Major League Baseball reached an agreement to continue the sponsorship, but then MLB reneged, demanding way more money.  Anheuser-Bush claims that baseball is “demanding unreasonable fees to sell Bud in all ballparks.”  My take: they’ve been demanding unreasonable fees to for people to buy it for decades, and AB never complained about that. $8 for a Bud Light? I’m surprised there hasn’t been a class action yet.

Anyway, all of this gives me an opportunity to pass along a factoid that I share whenever Anheuser-Busch comes up.  They were a client of mine years ago, when I was but a baby lawyer.  At my first meeting at the local brewery, the AB guys told me that it was too bad I hadn’t been around just a few years before. Why? Because all of the conference rooms used to have taps built-in to the tables, and executives and others in meetings would drink beer. 9 A.M. meeting? Sure, why not?  Just part of the culture. And this wasn’t just some old 1940s thing. They were doing it into the 90s, they said.

I realize it’s possible that they were pulling my leg on that, but a couple of other people have told me they heard the same thing. Anyone know for sure?  It’s one of those stories that I want so badly to be true.

Hall of Fame will no longer use Chief Wahoo on Hall of Fame plaques

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Last month, in the wake of his election to the Hall of Fame, Jim Thome made it clear that he wanted to be inducted as a Cleveland Indian but that he did not want to have Chief Wahoo on his plaque.

His reasoning: even though that was the cap he wore for almost all of his time in Cleveland, “because of all the history and everything involved” he did not think it was the right thing to do. The context, of course, was the club’s decision, under pressure from Major League Baseball, to scrap the Wahoo logo due to its racial insensitivity, which it appears Thome agrees with.

Hall plaque decisions are not 100% up to the player, however. Rather, the Hall of Fame, while taking player sentiment into account, makes a judgment about the historical accuracy and representativeness of Hall plaques. This is to prevent a club from entering into a contract with a player to wear its logo on the plaque even if he only played with them for a short time or from a player simply picking his favorite club (or spiting his least-favorite), even if he only spent an inconsequential season or two there. Think Wade Boggs as a Devil Ray or Frank Robinson as, I dunno, a Dodger.

In the case of Chief Wahoo, the Hall has not only granted Thome’s wish, but has decreed that no new plaque will have Wahoo on it going forward:

To be fair, I can’t think of another player who wore Wahoo who would make the Hall of Fame in an Indians cap after Thome. Possibly Manny Ramirez if he ever gets in, though he may have a better claim to a Red Sox cap (debate it in the comments). Albert Belle appears on Veterans Committee ballots, but I’d bet my cats that he’s never getting it in. If younger players like Corey Kluber or Francisco Lindor or someone make it in, they’ll likely have just as much history in a Block-C or whatever the Indians get to replace Wahoo with than anything else, so it’s not really an issue for them.

Still, a nice gesture from the Hall, both to accommodate Thome’s wishes and to acknowledge the inappropriateness of using Chief Wahoo for any purpose going forward.