Monday, June 14, 2010

Back in the Days of No Agents

According to an article in the Sporting News dated 4/26/2010, a half century ago, baseball belonged to the owners. When players signed their contracts there were no agents and few, if any, negotiations.

Ralph Kiner: First contract: 1941 Pittsburgh Pirates.
The only problems I ever had were with Branch Rickey who was very stingy with money to ballplayers. I had seven years that I led the National League in home runs, in succession. My seventh year we had a terrible year with the Pirates. We finished dead last with 112 losses. Rickey said to me, "I'm gonna have to cut your salary 25 percent," which was the maximum cut. I argued for many weeks with him through the mail and telegrams. He said to me, "Son, where did we finish?" I said, "We finished last." He said, "We can finish last without you," which meant I had to take the 25 percent cut or not play baseball.

Mike McCormick: First contract, 1956, New York Giants.
With the Giants, my first salary was $6,000 which was the major league minimum plus my bonus. Coming out of high school, that's all the money in the world. I was 17, living in New York city and scared to death. We didn't have agents. We represented ourselves. The environment was threatening for most guys because you were dealing with educated lawyers who were general managers.

Denny McLain: First contract, 1962 Chicago White Sox.
The Yankees guy came in, and he had a check for all the money. When he crossed his legs, he had a hole in the bottom of his shoe. My mother told him, "We will call you." The White Sox guy comes in. When he crossed his legs, he had no hole in his shoes. My mother being a Polish Jew from the old country-what is the most important thing to someone who came out of Europe at that time of their life? Shoes. My mother said, "You're not signing with the Yankees, if their cheap scout can't afford a pair of shoes, what do you think will happen to you?" I was 18. I was dying to go to the Yankees. My idol was Mickey Mantle.

Dick Groat: First contract, 1952 Pittsburgh Pirates.
Between my junior and senior year at Duke, had worked out with the Pirates. Mr. Branch Rickey Sr. said, "Son, if you sign a contract tonight, I'll start you against the Cincinnati Reds tomorrow night." I said, "Mr. Rickey, I owe my senior year to Duke University. If you make the same offer to me when my eligibility is up I promise I'll sign with the Pirates." A year later, I signed my first contract for $5,000 a year. He lived by his word.

Kevin Marquez