While major-league pitchers are just limbering up for spring training, the legal fastballs are already flying in the competitive business of "Rotisserie league" baseball statistics.
Baltimore-based USA Stats Inc. fired a strike yesterday when it won an injunction in U.S. District Court in Baltimore that temporarily stops a New York competitor from marketing its Rotisserie stat service.
U.S. District Judge William N. Nickerson issued the restraining order yesterday against Rotisserie League Baseball Association Inc., which the Baltimore company says stole its marketing ideas by duplicating its sales literature.
The order remains in effect until 5 p.m. Monday. The two companies are scheduled to appear Monday afternoon before lTC District Chief Judge Walter E. Black Jr. to argue a motion seeking a permanent injunction against the New York company.
The companies are major-league players in the fast-growing hobby of Rotisserie baseball, which emerged in the late 1980s as way to allow ordinary fans to match wits against one another and the Tom Lasordas and John Oateses of the world.
Rotisserie baseball consists of leagues formed by individuals -- often co-workers -- who act as managers of fictional baseball teams. They select players from various teams on major-league rosters and compete against one another on the basis of the statistical performances of their players in real major-league baseball games.
Participants usually are charged a fee to become members of the league, and winners often are awarded monetary prizes.
USA Stats and RLBA solicit leagues as customers, whom they charge fees for keeping statistics for these leagues.
Erik Israel, a partner of RLBA, declined to comment on the ruling.
William K. Meyer, an attorney who owns USA Stats along with Terrence D. Woulfe, said the judge's decision, albeit temporary, was a victory for small businesses trying to compete with new ideas.
"The significance is that the court has determined that, at least at this initial stage, the company copied our brochure," said Meyer, who projected that his firm's sales this spring would boost the number of customers to more than 5,000.
He said the company started in 1988 and has grown steadily. It generated more than $250,000 in sales last year. He said it is the country's largest baseball-only Rotisserie statistics operation.