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 May 30, 2010 Britain’s Dario Franchitti wins the Indianapolis 500, completing the 200-lap chase in 3:05:37 with an average speed of 162 mph. It was his 2nd victory at the famed race, which he would repeat a 3rd time in 2012. No stranger to the winner’s circle, Franchitti won the IndyCar series four times and the 24 Hours of Daytona once. He retired in 2013 after suffering serious injuries in a crash.
HOCKEY May 26, 2000 The New Jersey Devils top the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 at the NHL Eastern Conference Final. The Devils overcame a 3-game deficit to take the series in the 7th match, with Patrick Elias netting the winning goal of the tournament. New Jersey would go on to face the Dallas Stars at the Finals and win the Stanley Cup 4-2, with games 5 & 6 going into 3 and 2 overtime periods, respectively.
SOCCER May 23, 1990 Italy’s Milan beat Portugal’s Benfica 1-0 at the Euro Cup Final, the continent's most prestigious club competition. The winning goal came from Frank Rijkaard in the 68th minute. Rijkaard was one of three Dutch players who fielded a front for the Italian team, with the others being Ruud Gullit and Marco Van Basten. It was Milan’s 2nd consecutive victory at the Euro Cup and 4th overall since the tournament began in 1955.
BASKETBALL May 16, 1980 The Los Angeles Lakers become NBA champions after defeating the Philadelphia 76ers 4-2. It was the 7th national title for the West Coast team who were last crowned in 1972. Rookie Magic Johnson took home the MVP Finals award, scoring 42 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in Game 6. It was the first NBA Finals that used the 3-point line, which was introduced that season.