From SABR member Graham Womack at The Hardball Times on April 2, 2013:
When Babe Ruth signed for $80,000 prior to the 1930 baseball season, as the apocryphal story goes, someone admonished him that he was making more than President Herbert Hoover. “I know,” the Bambino is said to have replied, “But I had a better year than Hoover.”
What’s shocking now, more than 80 years on, is not what Ruth may have said—granted, it was a valid assertion in those early days of the Great Depression—or how much the Colossus of Clout commanded. It’s that Ruth’s $80,000 1930 salary adjusts with inflation to $1,086,882 in 2012 dollars. That’s about a third of the current average major league baseball salary, which rose to a record of $3.2 million last year.
This isn’t to say the Sultan of Swat was underpaid historically. In fact, before the advent of free agency in the mid-1970s, no player ever received a higher salary in 2012 dollars than what Ruth got in 1933: $1,436,298. Willie Mays came close in 1959, his $160,000 salary that season good for $1,275,616 in 2012 dollars. The $80,000 that Ruth received in 1933, when the average laborer earned $20 a week and 24.9 percent of Americans were unemployed, simply had more purchasing power.
This is just one thing I learned through a recent long evening on Baseball-Reference.com. The website added salary information as well as a drop down inflation calculator to player pages not long ago. Culled largely from research by University of Wisconsin professor Michael Haupert, the salary info is a work in progress, with some long-ago players having it for only one or two years. But it offers an interesting glimpse into baseball’s history.
Read the full article here: http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/how-hall-of-famers-rank-for-salary-in-2012-dollars/
Originally published: April 2, 2013. Last Updated: April 2, 2013.