Tag Archives: salaries

March 2 in baseball history-MONEY MONEY MONEY

1927 | NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK • Babe Ruth became the highest paid player in the major leagues on this date in 1927. The New York Yankees announced that the 32-year old Bambino will earn $70,000 per season for the next three years.

Seventy-thousand dollars a year in 1927 translates to about $1,000,000 in today’s dollars. Not a huge amount compared to today’s salaries, but that was before free agency when a player was the property of a team till the end of his career. The only way he could put on another uniform was if he were traded or released.

Major League Baseball salary records compiled by economist Michael J. Haupert of the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse show Ruth was also the highest paid player of the 1930’s. He earned $80,000 in 1930 and 1931.

Below is Haupert’s list of the highest annual salaries per decade, as can best be determined. Haupert says records of the late 19th and early 20th centuries are “tenuous,” but illustrate how salaries have changed:

1870’s (Al Spaulding) $4,000
1880’s (Fred Dunlap, Buck Ewing) $5,000
1890’s (Hardy Richardson) $4,000
1900’s (Nap Lajoie) $9,000
1910’s (Ty Cobb) $20,000
1920’s (Babe Ruth) $70,000
1930’s (Babe Ruth) $80,000
1940’s (Joe DiMaggio) $100,000
1950’s (Joe DiMaggio) $100,000
1960’s (Willie Mays) $135,000
1970’s (Rod Carew) $800,000
1980’s (Orel Hershiser/Frank Viola) $2,766,667
1990’s (Gary Sheffield) $14,936,667
2000’s (Alex Rodriguez) $33,000,000
2010’s (Alex Rodriguez) $33,000,000

Contributing sources:
“MLB’s Annual Salary Leaders, 1874-2012,” by Michael Haupert 
“Ruth gets 3-year contract; $210,000,” Chicago Daily Tribune, March 3, 1927

Improving With Age

FEBRUARY 6, 1958 | BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS • It doesn’t seem like a whole lot today, but 39-year old Ted Williams signed a one year contract with the Boston Red Sox on this date in 1958 for a reported $125,000. It made him the highest paid player in history. Red Sox General Manager Joe Cronin said the raise was much “deserved.” Williams didn’t seem to slow down a bit in ’57. He hit .388.

According to Joe Kelley of the Associated Press (AP) Williams was in such a good mood he sat down for more than an hour and chatted with reporters he’d clashed with many times before. The left fielder said, “I feel wonderful and feel I can do anything I could do five years ago.”

He was asked about doing what many aging players had done defensively, “I don’t know about first base, it wouldn’t look good in left field,” Williams deadpanned. Seriously, he didn’t think it would be that easy to switch from outfield to first base as he approaches his 40’s.

Williams played three more seasons and probably could have played more. He played 113 games in his final season, 1960, and finished with 29 home runs, 72 runs batted in and a .316 batting average.

And, oh what might have been. Williams, like many players of that era, missed three full seasons during World War II when he was in his 20’s. He missed parts of two more seasons during the Korean War. He finished with 521 home runs. If he had played those seasons it’s quite certain he would have hit well over 600 home runs. Theodore Samuel Williams was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1966.

Contributing sources:
Joe Kelley, Associated Press (AP), Boston, Massachusetts, February 7, 1958

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

Comments welcome: