In this article the authors explore the dramatic shifts in the business of baseball that drove the medicalization of the game and players' bodies. Before the advent of salary arbitration (1974) and free agency (1976), ballplayers were disposable parts in a high-risk work environment. Buoyed by exploding television revenues, the free agent market drove players' salaries into the millions, transforming the economics of bodily management. Enticed by the prospect of riches, players and teams harnessed fitness training, reconstructive surgery, biomechanical analysis, and performance-enhancing drugs to reduce wear and tear on players' bodies and, ultimately, radically alter them for profit. This interplay between economic incentives and medicine created what the authors call “bionic ballplayers”: bigger, stronger, and at times more fragile than their predecessors. By attacking individual ballplayers' morality, commentators have obscured the more salient issue: baseball is representative of the fact that Americans increasingly live in an age of biotechnology in which bodily modification for profit has become the norm and often an unstated job requirement. In this postindustrial age, the body remains a crucial means of production. Thus, the authors suggest that the question raised by steroids is not only individual morality but also the morality produced by a political economy of labor that calls for both services and body parts rendered.
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Research Article| March 01 2014
Bionic Ballplayers: Risk, Profit, and the Body as Commodity, 1964 – 2007
Labor (2014) 11 (1): 47–75.
Sarah F. Rose, Joshua A. T. Salzmann; Bionic Ballplayers: Risk, Profit, and the Body as Commodity, 1964 – 2007. Labor 1 March 2014; 11 (1): 47–75. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/15476715-2385390
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