How much money is a professional baseball player worth?
Atlanta Braves fan favorite Freddie Freeman recently turned down a $140 million five-year contract. He instead accepted a $162 million six-year contract with the L.A. Dodgers. Freeman will be the fourth L.A. player holding a locked-in annual salary of over $20 million. Nice work if you can get it.
My! My! How things have changed!
My wife, Susan, and I are only casual baseball fans. But we each have a relative who played the game professionally. Susan’s uncle, Joe Tipton from McCaysville in Fannin County, Georgia played for the Cleveland Indians. Joe was the catcher in the 1948 World Series.
My distant cousin and namesake, Ty Cobb, from The Narrows of Banks County, Georgia played professional baseball for 23 and a half years. He helped bring the Detroit Tigers back from the dead and turn them into a yearly national champion contender.
So how has anything really changed in baseball? Here’s one distinct way things have changed. Susan’s uncle Joe Tipton never made more than $30,000 in any single year during his career. For certain $30,000 would go much farther in the 1940s and ‘50s, but when all things are considered he made a fraction of what professional baseball players earn today.
And my cousin Ty Cobb also did not make a staggering salary. Contrary to the many myths, lies and Hollywood versions of truth, the Georgia Peach made peanuts when compared to what players make today.
Author Charles Leehrsen researched extensively Cobb’s career. In his biography, COBB-The Terrible Beauty, he reports that at Cobb’s career peak he made nowhere near $100,000 a year. So how did this backwoods Georgia Cracker become and die a wealthy man?
His wealth was made in non-baseball related investments. Most of his prosperity came from stock investments in startup companies he’d researched. Companies like Coca-Cola and General Motors were early on in his portfolio.
The untold truth about Ty Cobb—and there are many truths yet to be told—is that he was a generous man. He gave back his wealth to those in need. For instance, to date more than 10,000 people have received college grant money from an organization begun and funded by Ty Cobb’s non-baseball related stock investments.
Today I wonder how much Freeman and the other millionaire baseball players kick in to educating the underprivileged. I also wonder what baseball fans will pay for a bag of peanuts sold in the stadium where these millionaires play. What will the market bear for peanuts?