Monday, December 5, 2022

The $100K Players in the 1960s


TRIVIA WINNER: Congrats to Tim Nathan, Berkley, MI, who revealed that Lew Burdette was the Angels pitcher who pitched for the Yankees to start his career and only played for one other AL team; the Angels. The Prize: Starbucks Gift Card.

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ANSWER to the Trivia question in the previous column: Lew Burdette started his career with the Yankees and only played for one other AL team.

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NEW TRIVIA QUESTION:  The "other" Triple Crown Winner in the American League in the 1960's, Carl Yastrzemsi, finally made $100,000 a season. In what year did he first make that salary?

 It may seem like a minuscule amount in today's salaried world where millions of dollars are being spent on major league players and at some point we will see a Billion Dollar Contract, but in the 1960s the goal was $100,000. So who was the highest paid player in the 1960s. It should come as no surprise, it was Willie Mays. In 1965 at age 34 Mays hit 52 homers and batted .317.

What Willie Mays made in a season in the 1960s was about what players today make in "at bat," and while all things are relative most fans believe players like Mays and Aaron were well underpaid. I had more than one encounter with Willie over the last 25 years and he has seemed to be not a pleasant individual. He seems angry, which is what others who have had the same experience have told me as well. It might be understandable that he might feel slighted that players who couldn't hold a candle to him during his say-hey days, make millions while he made less around $2 million in his career.

Briefly Mickey Mantle was the highest paid, the Mays and then for one year Sandy Koufax was top of the list. If he hadn't retired, the lefty pitcher might have been the highest paid in the decade over Mays. The list looks like this;

1960 $80,000 Willie Mays (SF NL)
1961 $85,000 Willie Mays (SF NL)
1962 $90,000 Mickey Mantle (NY AL)
    Willie Mays (SF NL)
1963 $105,000 Willie Mays (SF NL)
1964 $105,000 Willie Mays (SF NL)
1965 $105,000 Willie Mays (SF NL)
1966 $130,000 Sandy Koufax (LA NL) (Retired after 1966 season)
1967 $125,000 Willie Mays (SF NL)
1968 $125,000 Willie Mays (SF NL)
1969 $135,000 Willie Mays (SF NL) (Top Salary of the decade)   

During the 1960s Hank Aaron hit 40+ homers a season five times, yet Aaron never made more than $92,500 but crossed the $100k mark in 1970 at $125k. He eventually made $240k. Frank Robinson won the Triple Crown in 1966 at age 30 but didn't reach $100k until 1967, topping out at $125 in the 60s. Juan Marichal made $115k among the top players. By the end of the decade there were several. 

Pete Rose often said that knowing sluggers made $100k, he wanted to be the first $100k "singles hitter." He made in 1970 when he reached $105k.

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