Common Law Origins of the Infield Fly Rule
As the World Series draws to a close, we are giving a tip-of-the-hat to Penn Law alumnus William S Stevens, author of The Common Law Origins of the Infield Fly Rule published in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review in 1975.
In deadpan fashion, Stevens gives baseball the legal treatment, eloquently drawing parallels between the history of the sport’s controversial infield fly rule and the development of common law, while simultaneously poking fun at the conventions of legal writing with its overzealous footnoting.
The short piece quickly gained enthusiastic fans in the legal community. Considered a game-changer for law reviews, the note has been credited for advancing studies in sports law. It has been taught in legal courses, cited in commentaries and court decisions, and inspired many imitations. The piece has been cited in 90 publications, and has been downloaded from the Penn Law Scholarship Repository over 12,000 times since 2014.
After graduating, Stevens went on to work as a successful lawyer in Philadelphia and served as assistant director of the American Law Institute and the American Bar Association’s continuing education program. Stevens passed away in 2008.
Sports and the Law Review Above the Law
William S. Stevens, 60, Dies; Wrote Infield Fly Note New York Times
Select Law Reviews
The Common Law Origins of the Infield Fly Rule U. Pa. L. Rev.