Gershon: How baseball went from pastime to profession

From Livia Gershon at JSTOR on August 11, 2017, with mention of SABR member Steven A. Riess:

It’s baseball season, which is also the season for marveling over professional players’ salaries. This year, the top players’ salaries are more than $30 million, and the average player will make $4.5 million.

Sports historian Steven A. Riess writes that the process that transformed baseball into a high-paid profession began in the 1860s. In those years, amateur teams, seeing growing interest in the sport, began recruiting better players by offering gifts, good jobs, and sometimes cash.

In 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first all-salaried team, thanks to a local businessman who was willing to pay to bring national recognition to the city. Just two years later, professional teams had proliferated enough to allow for the creation of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players.

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Originally published: August 11, 2017. Last Updated: August 11, 2017.