Joe DiMaggio Signs A Contract, Then Autographs For Fans – April 23, 1938
Back In Harness With Fanfare
Back in his Yankee uniform after a long holdout, Joe DiMaggio is shown April 23 in the home ballpark in New York City as he obliged autograph-seeking youngsters in the bleachers. The San Francisco slugger expected to be in playing form within a week. The Washington Nationals celebrated DiMaggio’s presence in the park by beating the Yanks 7-4. Photo: Associated Press April 23, 1938
Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez recently signed a seven year $141 million contract. Mets pitcher Max Scherzer will earn $43,333,333 in 2022. Mike Trout possibly the best position player today will earn $35,541,667 playing for the Angels this year.
In 1937 Joe DiMaggio’s second year in the majors, he played 151 games, scored 151 runs, with 215 hits, 46 home runs, 167 RBIs and posted a .346 batting average. He also walked 67 times while striking out only 37 times.
DiMaggio was paid $15,000. Not bad money for playing a game during the Great Depression. But with those sort of numbers DiMaggio asked the Yankees to pay him $40,000 for the upcoming 1938 season. The Yankees offered $25,000, take it or leave it.
So DiMaggio waited. The Yankees did not budge. And DiMaggio did not play. The holdout ended with DiMaggio accepting the Yankees $25,000 offer..
Which begs the question: If Joe DiMaggio was playing today how much would he be paid?
Love your website and I think this is a great question. I looked it up and it looks like their payroll was about 250k total that year. That’s about 5 million in modern dollars – DiMaggio being paid about a tenth of that amount. In 2022, the Yankees payroll is 225 million dollars, meaning the team is paying about 45x more money to players than they did comparatively in 1938. So if we multiply Joe’s offer by 45x, he would have been offered 22.5 million this year. But in truth, he would be offered far more due to the advent of free agency and the myriad of choices he would have. One other thing to consider is how much the Yankees were worth. This number is extremely difficult to arrive at but we know a few things. Steinbrenner bought the lousy playing Yankees in 1973 for about 9 million dollars which is about 50 million in current dollars. If we assume that before nationwide tv contracts and memorabilia deals that baseball teams were worth far less, the value of the Yankees was likely a third of that in 1938 despite their insane success, so maybe they were worth 17 million in modern dollars. As of 2022, the franchise is now estimated to be worth about 5 billion dollars.
So if we consider that DiMaggio was offered 500k (in 2022 dollars) out of an estimated 17 million dollars team evaluation (in modern dollars), he was offered 3% of the team’s value for a year of play. The Yankees’ highest paid player in 2022 is Gerrit Cole with 36 million dollars. That means he is being paid .07% of the team’s value, or about 2.3% less that DiMaggio.
Thanks for doing those calculations. And that is very interesting to do a player comparison to team value.
Historical dollar value is something I think about frequently when writing about prices and costs of the past. Historical value is especially relevant today because of inflation and rising prices.
Herein lies the slippery slope of comparing the historical value of money to current values.
The inherent issue with trying to assign comparison values is: which numbers, formulas, calculators and indices are being used in the computation? Is it a labor cost calculator, inflation calculator, relative worth, cost of living, buying power, retail price index, a consumer or commodity price index or another set of data? The calculators will all yield different results for the same input.
From one of the calculator sites –
“The US Dollar from different years does not represent an accurate comparison of its real value. More practically, it means that you cannot buy the same amount of goods and services at the same price or with the same amount of dollars down the timeline.
For the purpose of comparing the value of dollars in particular years, the older figure should be adjusted by an updated price index.
In order to calculate the change in the buying power, one must multiply the ratio of the base year’s CPI (181.3) to target year CPI (219.235) by 100.”
Here is a lengthy but well researched piece on historical value.
This is one of the calculators I use because it contains multiple indices-
Thanks B.P, these are super useful! I’m always trying to figure out a better way to incorporate comparative pricing dynamics into my thinking about the past and will be going through these links in detail. One thing I saw the other day was that in 1955, minimum wage was 1.00 and gas was .29 per gallon. But the price of milk was .97. If we think about that in a relative sense, milk was 3.3x more expensive in that economy than gas which in modern terms would make milk cost about $13.20 per gallon at gasoline’s $4 per gallon average nationwide. That type of thing wouldn’t show up with strictly dollar to dollar inflationary calculators.
But of course, there are still unknowns – how important was milk for folks nationwide at the time, did they drink more or less milk? Did they drive as much per capita as they do now? Basically, what did these numbers mean for people at that time compared to how we think about what those price differences would mean in 2022? Anyway, thanks again for the content and for the links, much appreciated!