Following Baseball’s Wages

Americans pay mega lip service to the notion of work being sacrosanct. The Bible, the good book of the Jeebus lovers says that “if a person won’t work, he shouldn’t eat,” (the JBE version paraphrase). But what about those working two and three minimum wage jobs and still finding it hard to buy groceries, pay rent, let alone having any money left over for a movie and a bag of popcorn? God help them if they happen to have a health crisis.

Does Christianity speak to the issue of justice and wages? If a man (or woman) is working, providing services to  others, shouldn’t they at least receive a wage they can live on, and not have to work 75-80 hours each week merely to survive?

Some of the largest and most profitable companies in the U.S.—we’re talking McDonald’s and Wal-Mart—cost taxpayers nearly $153 million a year, according to the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Information.

Wednesday was Tax Day, and a group called Fight for $15 staged their largest action to date. They chose Tax Day to highlight taxpayer largesse going to companies that can afford to pay workers fair wages, rather than pocketing profits while receiving corporate welfare.

Rallying for wage increases, Ellsworth, Maine.

Rallying for wage increased, Ellsworth, Maine.

According to yesterday’s Democracy Now broadcast, “some 60,000 workers walked off their jobs in more than 200 cities, bringing together fast-food workers, home-care aides, child-care providers, Wal-Mart clerks, adjunct professors, airport workers, and other low-wage workers.”

While these workers were staging their labor action, I was driving back from Brunswick, listening to day baseball, and Wednesday’s Red Sox/Washington Nationals game.

I’m more likely to listen to the Red Sox on the radio than I am to watch them on television and NESN. Part of this is habit—I grew up appreciating baseball on the radio. There’s something calming about a baseball broadcast, especially on a warm summer night. You can also write, read, or do other things while keeping track of the game’s progress. It doesn’t hurt to have a broadcast duo like Joe Castiglione  and Dave O’Brien.

It was Castiglione who was talking about Branch Rickey (not sure of the context) and he mentioned a comment that Ken Coleman (a veteran announcer who had two stints as a Sox radio broadcaster) made about the minimum baseball salaries in the early 1960s. In 1962, the minimum salary was a mere $7,000 a year. The stars, guys like Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, and a few others made close to $100,000 a year. What struck me was Castiglione saying that Coleman told him that “75 percent of major leaguers in 1962 made the minimum” or not much above it. That’s why players used to have to get a job in the off-season.

Baseball salaries have escalated over the past 50 years since the league minimum was $7,000.

In 2014, Major League Baseball upped the minimum to just over $500,000 per year (the actual amount was $507,500). That would be an increase from that $7,000 amount in 1962, of 7,100 percent!

If you extrapolate that to the minimum wage issue, using baseball as your barometer, then a $15/hour minimum wage isn’t unrealistic. Say what?

The federal minimum wage in 1962 was $1.15. If that wage tracked the minimum salary of baseball players, then it should be $15.39. Certainly a level more livable than the current $7.25/hour.

What’s even more mind-blowing relative to baseball salaries are the astronomical rise of salaries being paid to the upper-echelon players over that same period. In 1962, Mickey Mantle was baseball’s highest paid player, making $90,000 per year. The next year, Willie Mays made $105,000.

MLB salary history.

MLB salary history.

If you compare Mantle’s salary to Alex Rodriguez’s $29 million he made in 2014, the rise would be an unbelievable 32,000 percent! It’s almost unfathomable, but no one seems to bat an eye these days.

But for people that serve us our food, care for our failing seniors in their homes, watch our children, and perform a host of other less high profile tasks, business leaders and local boosters bloviate that “we can’t have that.” No, “we’ll have to raise prices,” they threaten. Then raise prices!

Have you been to a ball game at Fenway or another MLB stadium lately? Ticket prices have gone up, along with the food concessions. No one seems to be complaining about that or staying away in droves.

One thought on “Following Baseball’s Wages

  1. Any way you can make that chart expand?

    It would be interesting to see that overlaid with other information, such as MLB gross revenues, revenues from television, revenues from stadium concessions. I suspect, though without much evidence, that club profits (not taxed, of course) have risen even faster than the salaries. Player salaries are a worthwhile expense to keep the gravy train rolling.

    I don’t knock the players, either, even if they are greedy. If they can squeeze that money out of MLB, go for it. But I’d rather MLB was something it will never be again, where a businessman could go for an hour and a half in the afternoon, before returning to his office for the rest of the day.

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