Ferkovich: Baseball’s first bonus baby was target of boo birds in Detroit

From SABR member Scott Ferkovich at Detroit Athletic Co. on May 2, 2014:

Detroit Tigers owner Walter Briggs already had a reputation as a liberal spender. If anybody needed further proof, they got it on June 21, 1942. That day, the Tigers signed a 20-year old University of Michigan student, offering him a $52,000 bonus in the process. The youngster quickly went out and bought a brand-new Lincoln Zephyr, even though he didn’t know how to drive. Thus begins the story of Dick Wakefield, baseball’s first “bonus baby.”

Wakefield was from Chicago. His father, Howard Wakefield, had played in the major leagues for Cleveland and Washington from 1905 to 1907. Under the tutelage of their father, Dick and his three brothers all grew up playing baseball in the backyard of their modest frame home in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. As the boys grew bigger and outgrew the yard, Howard Wakefield decided to cut down a large tree and tear down a garage, in order to make more room. “That’s where Dick got his start,” his mother pointed out later. “Dick’s father always insisted that anything connected with baseball would be done the way he wanted it, and any fancy ideas the high school coach might have were ruled out immediately.”

Read the full article here: http://blog.detroitathletic.com/2014/05/02/baseballs-first-bonus-baby-wakefield-target-boo-birds-detroit/

Originally published: May 2, 2014. Last Updated: May 2, 2014.