Baseball's Take Home Leaders
Major League Baseball takes the field for another season of hard hitting numbers. The league is now worth $36 Bil, its wealthiest team is valued at $3.4 Bil and its highest paid athlete is salaried at $33 Mil.
Not surprisingly, the perennial pinstriped New York Yankees are the game’s richest team, worth nearly three times the $1.2 Bil average value of a baseball franchise. The Los Angeles Dodgers land second at $2.5 Bil, while the Tampa Bay Rays drop last at $650 Mil.
More compelling than just the raw, out-of-the-ball-park figures is how the numbers evolved. Shipbuilder George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees from CBS in 1973 for $8.8 Mil and turned the dormant pastime business into a gold minting, entertainment dynamo.
Fueled by the onset of free agency and lucrative TV contracts to sustain a ballooning payroll, the hard-charging entrepreneur exploited NY’s densely populated market and spent big on marquee players like Reggie Jackson, Jim “Catfish” Hunter and Dave Winfield.
Fans filled the stadium, TV viewership grew and baseball capitalism took off.
The “reserve clause” which had historically pinned down players to their teams and kept remunerations in line was gone by the mid-1970’s.
For the first time, baseball’s highest salary more than doubled from one year to the next- Hank Aaron’s $240,000 take home in 1976 with the Milwaukee Brewers was overtaken in 1977 by Mike Schmidt’s $560,000 pay with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Three years later, Nolan Ryan quadrupled his numbers when he signed the first $1.0 Mil per season contract with the Houston Astros in 1980.
Even before the advent of free agency and cable revenue streams, baseball did not hesitate to pay a premium for talented sluggers. Joe DiMaggio was the first to hit the $100,000 threshold in 1949; Dick Allen reached $200,000 in 1973.
The figures translate to slightly over $1.0 Mil today.
But it was legendary home run king Babe Ruth who ruled the salary bracket for thirteen consecutive seasons from 1922-34, the most of any player in the sport’s history.
At his peak in 1930-31, the Sultan of Swat was making $80,000, or 2.4x more than the second highest player.
Seventy years after Ruth, another home run machine would dominate the dollar charts for twelve seasons. In 2001, Alex Rodriquez startled the baseball world when he inked a 10-year, $257 Mil contract with the Texas Rangers; it was renegotiated to $275 Mil in 2008 when he hit for the Yankees.
Six years on in 2014, Giancarlo Stanton landed the richest contract in sports history with a 13-year, $325 Mil deal with the Florida Marlins.
We wonder how George Steinbrenner would react today.
Other articles enjoyed: The Worst Years In Baseball, A Bronx Kid Takes Aim At The Babe, Jim Bouton & Ball Four, Reggie Jackson: Mr. October, A 42-Year Old Rookie Takes The Mound, Baseball & Fidel Castro
MOTOR RACING November 1, 2009 British car racer Jensen Button wins his first and last Formula One World Championship title after finishing 3rd at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the final race of the calendar year. Button clinched 6 GPs that season, including Monte Carlo, accumulating the most points at 95, or 11 ahead of runner-up Sebastian Vettel.
RUGBY November 6, 1999 Australia wins the 4th quadrennial Rugby World Cup championship after defeating France 35-12 in the Final. Wales was the official host to the tournament, which saw 65 national teams qualify for 20 spots at the 37-day event. The U.S. lost all 3 of its group matches, including a 53-8 crushing against Ireland, and was dispatched early.
BASEBALL November 3, 1989 Lou Piniella replaces Pete Rose as Manager of the Cincinnati Reds. It was Rose’s last year in professional baseball after being banned for life due to gambling activities in MLB games. Piniella stayed on for three seasons, leading the Reds to a World Series victory in just his first year as Manager with the mid-west franchise.
BASKETBALL October 30, 1979 The Los Angeles Lakers defeat the Chicago Bulls 111-105, winning a fifth straight game and posting an early season record of 7-2. In the first NBA season to implement the 3-point shot, they would go on to clinch the national Championship against the Philadelphia 76ers. Rookie Magic Johnson took home the MVP award.