Stan Musial checking paperwork at the Christmas Tree lot in 1943. Photo courtesy of NYTimes.com.
Can you imagine buying a used car from Brandon Phillips?
How about going to buy a Christmas Tree from Miguel Cabrera? Insurance from Derek Jeter?
Need a suit for your buddy's wedding? Your salesman, Clayton Kershaw, would be happy to help you pick out something that's stylish yet tasteful.
For as absurd as the above scenarios sound, it was a way of life for major league players of years past, who weren't making the kind of money that even borderline major league players pull down in a season today.
In 2012, the average major league salary was just over $3.2 million, with the minimum salary sitting at nearly a half-million dollars, $480,000 per season, according to ESPN.
Making that sort of money allows today's player to make baseball a year-round job, training and working out during the offseason.
Without question, the ability to train year-round has something to do with the increased size and strength of today's player as compared to those who came before them—but it demands that some questions be asked that simply can never be answered.
How much better would Stan Musial have been if he didn't need to sell Christmas trees during his time off?
What about Roy Campanella, the Hall of Fame backstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers?
How good could he have been—and how much better would the Dodgers pitching staff have been as a result—if Campanella could have worked with those pitchers during the winter instead of running his liquor store in Harlem?
In 1966, 20-year-old Jim Palmer helped lead the Baltimore Orioles to a World Series victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Less than a month later, Palmer was back at work—folding clothes, not firing fastballs, as he told Andrew Keh of the New York Times:
“I was the youngest player to ever throw a shutout in a World Series. Next thing I know, I am selling men’s clothes at Hamburgers.”
Would Palmer, who went on to win three American League Cy Young Awards and be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, have been better had he been able to focus on pitching instead of clothing in the offseason?
How would today's major league player handle having to work a "regular job" as well as their high-profile one—and more importantly, how would that impact their production on the field?