Tuesday, February 07, 2006

 
February 7th, 1949

Joe DiMaggio Signs Contract


This was no ordinary contract for "Joltin' Joe" as it made him the first player to make $100,000 for a season, worth about $775,000 in today's dollars. DiMaggio was coming off one his better years in 1948, although one that marked a rare World Series without the Yankees during DiMaggio's tenure. (Excluding the seasons DiMaggio was in the war, 1943-1945, the Yankees played in the World Series in ten of DiMaggio's thirteen seasons, winning nine.) DiMaggio suffered something of an off year in '49, playing in just seventy-six games, although he still managed to win enough MVP support to finish twelfth in that year's voting.

The contract was more interesting, however, for being another point on the continuing climb of baseball salaries. Babe Ruth had made an estimate fifty thousand in 1922--about a half a million in modern dollars--but DiMaggio and his breaking the $100,000 ceiling would not come for another twenty-seven years. It would be an even longer time, thirty-years, until the $500,000 barrier was cracked, this time by Mike Schmidt, who earned it in 1977 for the Phillies. Schmidt's contract opened the floodgates, however, as it just two years later that the Astros gave Nolan Ryan a contract for an even million.

In another twelve years, Roger Clemens received more than five million from the Red Sox for his services in 1991 and by 1996 the White Sox had decided Albert Belle was worth more than ten million a season. Kevin Brown marked the fifteen million mark when the Dodgers gifted him a seven-year contract (one that Yankees just finished this past season) after the 1998 season. Just two years later, the Red Sox again broke a new salary barrier, this time making Manny Ramirez the first to break twenty million, an amount that was soon shattered with the announcement of the twenty-five million average Alex Rodriguez would be receiving.

As of now, no one has come close to topping A-Rod's record, and it looks like it might be a long while before anyone does. But then, who could've guessed in 1949 that within just over half a century the highest paid player would have a salary two hundred and fifty times higher than what DiMaggio was getting. I guess we'll just have to keep watching.




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