Jackpots and Paydays
As Curt Flood pursued his lawsuit, Marvin Miller, head of the players’ union, won the players the right to arbitration in settling contract disputes. When an arbitrator ruled in 1975 that the reserve clause could not control players for life, the momentous decision soon opened the Floodgates, as it were, to free agency. Multi-million-dollar contracts became routine, but even the most jaded observers were shocked in 2000 when the Texas Rangers offered Alex Rodríguez, shown here, a ten-year, $252 million deal.
A Sampling of Annual Salary Leaders
|Al Spalding, Chicago White Stockings||$4,000||1876|
|Paul Cook, Louisville Colonels||$2,000||1891|
|Ty Cobb, Detroit Tigers||$15,000||1914|
|Babe Ruth, New York Yankees||$80,000||1930|
|Joe DiMaggio, New York Yankees||$100,000||1949|
|Willie Mays, San Francisco Giants||$105,000||1963|
|Hank Aaron, Milwaukee Brewers||$240,000||1975*|
|Mike Schmidt, Philadelphia Phillies||$560,000||1976|
|Nolan Ryan, Houston Astros||$1,000,000||1980|
|Albert Belle, Chicago White Sox||$10,000,000||1997|
|Alex Rodríguez, Texas Rangers||$22,000,000||2001|
|Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels||$34,000,000||2018|
*The free agency era began in 1975.
These figures are actual salaries not adjusted for inflation.