The $250,000 suit charging major league baseball with killing a minor league club through radio and television went to trial today. But none of the prime witnesses showed up.
Commissioner Ford Frick, a defendant along with the 16 major league clubs, was among the missing. He is scheduled to appear tomorrow.
The suit, filed almost four years ago, was brought by Frank D. Lawrence, the president of the now-defunct Portsmouth, Va., a club in the Piedmont League.
His lawyer told a U. S. district court today that Frick “aided and abetted” the major league clubs when they “appropriated the territory of the plaintiff, invaded and intruded upon it, in violation of his rights,” through the broadcasting and telecasting of major league games.
As a result, the lawyer said, Lawrence was driven out of a business producing an annual income of $50,000. “We are prepared to prove,” he added, “that minor league baseball is fast disappearing because of television and radio activities of the defendants.”
The defense lawyer explained Frick’s absence today by saying Lawrence and his attorney “had four years in which to inform us they were going to call Mr. Frick as a witness, and we were served at 11 A.M. today with a subpoena calling for his appearance at noon today. Mr. Frick is engaged in public commitments today, but he will be here tomorrow/’
Lawrence’s attorney said another witness, Branch Rickey, a longtime front-office official in the majors, had to be excused because of illness. He added that A. B. (Happy) Chandler, former baseball commissioner and now governor of Kentucky, is unable to leave Kentucky for several weeks, but that deposition from Chandler will be offered.