DiFranza: When the offseason meant job season for ballplayers

From SABR member Lenny DiFranza at BaseballHall.org on February 19, 2015:

Yogi Berra was 22 years old when he played in his first World Series in 1947, where he hit his first Series homer and contributed to the New York Yankees’ 11th championship. If Berra was breaking into the major leagues today, his post-Series plans would probably include some celebrating, but also a regimen of hard work to prepare for the next season.

The current guaranteed minimum salary of $500,000 would cover his expenses.

But in 1947, the minimum pay was only $5,000. Like many players before the salary boom that began in the late 1970s, Berra returned home and found an offseason job. A St. Louis restaurant hired Yogi to don a tuxedo and greet patrons. Another winter, he sold hardware at a department store. Even in 1951, after winning his fourth championship and his first AL MVP Award, Berra sold suits at a store in Newark, N.J., alongside his teammate Phil Rizzuto.

From there, Berra’s life on the field and off became far better than minimum. With stardom came higher salaries and lucrative product endorsements, as well as a unique business opportunity. He was hired to endorse the chocolate drink Yoo-Hoo, and became so valuable to the growing company that they made him an executive. In those days before a dependable player pension, Berra’s future was secure.

Read the full article here: http://baseballhall.org/discover/when-the-offseason-meant-job-season

Originally published: February 19, 2015. Last Updated: February 19, 2015.