March 17th in baseball history-“MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL” IS BORN

1871 | NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK – “Major league baseball” didn’t just happen, it evolved in fits and starts. One of those starts took place on this date in 1871. Representatives of ten clubs; some professional, some amateur, some amateur only in name, met at Collier’s Café on Broadway in New York City to form The National Association of Professional Base Ball Players.

Up until this time, baseball had been considered an amateur sport, but the Cincinnati Red Stockings led by former cricket player Harry Wright were an exception. They showed people would pay to see good baseball.

According to Leonard Koppett, author of Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball, the Red Stockings drew an estimated 200,000 fans playing about 60 games around the country in 1869. In 1870 the Red Stockings played a memorable extra inning game before 20,000 paying customers in New York. The commercial viability of professional baseball was no longer in question.

The National Association of Professional Base Ball Players only lasted 5 years – and is not considered a “major league” by MLB – but several of its teams became the foundation of the National League, established in 1876 and going strong to this day.

Contributing sources:
Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball, by Leonard Koppett, 2004
National Association of Professional Base-Ball Players
The National League

 

March 1 in baseball history-MANTLE RETIRES

1969 | FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA • An American icon of the 1950’s and 60’s retired on this date in 1969. Mickey Mantle made the announcement at the spring training home of the New York Yankees, ending an 18-year career.

It’s remarkable it lasted that long considering “Mick” endured a variety of injuries, mostly to his legs. In announcing his decision, Mantle revealed the frustrations of a proud athlete, he was only 37, whose body would not perform, “I don’t hit the ball when I need to. I can’t steal when I need to, I can’t score from second base when I need to.”

Mantle had superstar numbers, but they could have been better. He was the prototype 5-tool player when he came up to the Yankees at age 19 – run, hit, hit for power, throw and catch.

Early in his career he was described as the fastest player from home to first, but that was before leg injuries turned him into a 4-tool star.

Career statistics:

  • 3-time MVP
  • 16-time all-star
  • On 12 pennant winners
  • On 7 World Series championship teams
  • 536 home runs
  • .298 average
  • .421 on-base percentage
  • .557 slugging percentage

Contributing sources:
New York Times, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, March 2, 1969
More on Mantle

Feb 25th in baseball history-GETTING ALONG

1973 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK – Maybe major league baseball – players and owners – learned their lesson. There were eight work stoppages from 1972 to 1995, a span of 23 years, none since, a span of 22 years.

It could be because the last work stoppage, which started in 1994, almost destroyed the game. It wiped out the entire post season, including the World Series.

Players and owners alike knew fans were becoming disenchanted, or worse, indifferent, to the annual spring labor rituals.

There was good news on this date in 1973. The players’ union and team owners announced a new three-year agreement ending a lockout by the owners at the start of spring training. The ‘73 agreement instituted what has become as common as the hit & run – arbitration. After so many years in the league a player who couldn’t agree on a salary with his team could take the issue to arbitration.

Everyone was relieved with the ’73 agreement. Players and owners alike knew fans were becoming disenchanted, or worse, indifferent, to the annual spring labor rituals. Besides 1972 and 1973, there were work stoppages in 1980, 1981, 1985, 1990 and the devastating strike in 1994-95. Since 1995 – harmony. Knock on wood.

Contributing sources:
Herschel Nissenson, Associated Press (AP), The Gettysburg Times, February 26, 1973
“Pro Sports Lockouts and Strikes Fast Facts,” CNN, May 30, 2016

TEAM VALUE$ SKYROCKET

JANUARY 25,1945 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK The New York Yankees were sold today in baseball history for $2.5 million to Larry MacPhail, Dan Topping and Del Webb.

Compare that sale price to the value of MLB teams today. The increases are almost incomprehensible. Even comparing for inflation, they’re way beyond the hikes in costs of every thing else.

The increase in team values over just the last 9 years is staggering, as this list from Forbes Magazine comparing 2007 to 2016 (teams are ranked by their value in 2016):

              2007    2016
 1. Yankees   $1.2B   $3.4B
 2. Dodgers   $632M   $2.5B
 3. Red Sox   $724M   $2.3B
 4. Giants    $459M   $2.25B
 5. Cubs      $592M   $2.2B
 6. Braves    $458M   $1.75B
 7. Mets      $736M   $1.65B
 8. Cardinals $460M   $1.6B
 9. Angels    $431M   $1.34B
 10. Nationals $447M  $1.3B
 11. Phillies  $457M  $1.24B
 12. Rangers  $365M   $1.23B
 13. Mariners $436M   $1.2B
 14. Tigers   $357M   $1.15B
 15. Astros   $442M   $1.1B
 16. White Sox $381M  $1.05B
 17. Orioles  $395M   $1B
 18. Pirates  $274M   $975M
 19. Diamondbacks $339M $925M
 20. Twins    $288M   $910M
 21. Reds     $307M   $905B
 22. Blue Jays $344M  $900M
 23. Padres   $367M   $890M
 24. Brewers  $287M   $875M
 25. Royals   $282M   $865M
 26. Rockies  $317M   $860M
 27. Indians  $364M   $800M
 28. A's      $292M   $725M
 29. Marlins  $244M   $675M
 30. Rays     $267M   $650M

Comparing the cost of living in 1945 with today:

  • The average cost of a new home today ($360,000) is 78 times what it was in 1945 ($4,600).
  • The average cost of a gallon of gas today ($2.33) is 16 times greater than the average gallon in 1945 ($0.15).

The value of the Yankees is 1,360 times greater than it was in 1945.

Contributing Sources:
Forbes Magazine
The New York Times, January 26, 1945
Census Bureau – home prices

Dec 23, 1994 – THE DARK DAYS

NEW YORK, NEW YORK • It was not a good time for major league baseball. As a players’ strike dragged into its fourth month on this date in 1994, the owners declared an impasse and imposed a salary cap just before Christmas.

The strike had abruptly ended the previous season in August. For the first time since 1904 there was no World Series. Fans were not pleased.

As far as the owners were concerned, “players had attained a position of bargaining power that inflated salaries beyond reason.”

As Leonard Koppett describes in Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball, “distrust was the central issue.” As far as the owners were concerned, “players had attained a position of bargaining power that inflated salaries beyond reason.” The players’ position was that the owners reneged on an earlier agreement, lied about MLBs finances and were simply trying to break the union.

The strike ended in April of 1995. As the following list indicates, average salaries went down, considerably for some teams immediately after the strike.

Team…………………………….1994…………..1995
Detroit Tigers……………$1.3M………..$225,000
New York Yankees……$1.3M………….$531,000
Atlanta Braves………….$750,000…….$550,000
Chicago White Sox……$750,000…….$775,000
Philadelphia Phillies…$750,000…….$250,000
Kansas City Royals……$700,000…….$300,000
San Francisco Giants…$700,000…….$325,000
Boston Red Sox………….$650,000……..$282,500
Cleveland Indians………$650,000…….$725,000
Baltimore Orioles………$637,500……..$387,500
Los Angeles Dodgers….$600,000…….$287,500
St. Louis Cardinals……..$587,500…….$300,000
Toronto Blue Jays………$530,000……..$425,000
Cincinnati Reds………….$500,000……. $600,000
Texas Rangers……………$475,000……. $270,000
Oakland Athletics……….$413,500……..$235,000
Los Angeles Angels…….$400,000……..$185,000
Milwaukee Brewers……$350,000……..$158,000
Houston Astros…………..$340,000……..$185,000
Chicago Cubs………………$300,000……..$240,000
New York Mets……………$290,000……..$210,000
Seattle Mariners………….$275,000……..$275,000
Minnesota Twins………..$262,500……..$167,500
Florida Marlins…………..$230,000……..$185,000
Colorado Rockies…………$224,000…….$350,000
Washington Nationals…$200,000…….$185,000
Pittsburgh Pirates………..$192,500……..$225,000
San Diego Padres…………$167,500……..$200,500

But it didn’t take long for average player salaries to skyrocket again. They are  in another stratosphere today. The average player salary in 1995 was just over $1-Million. An Associated Press study of salaries at the start of the 2016 season showed average player salaries had more than quadrupled to $4.4-Million.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES: 
CBSsports.com  
Leonard Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball, by Leonard Koppett, 1998

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