The New York Yankees have announced that they intend to cut their payroll to less than $189 million by 2014 in order to avoid paying a luxury tax. When the Yankees negotiate with their players in the future, some hard feeling may develop. It will not be the first time that this has happened.
In 1938, the greatest center fielder in Yankees' history, Joe DiMaggio (I am a greater Mickey Mantle fan than a Joe DiMaggio fan), wanted $40,000 to play. He was told that there were two choices: DiMaggio could play for $25,000 or not play at all.
Coming off of a 1937 season in which he hit 346/.412/.673 with 167 RBI and 418 total bases, DiMaggio sincerely believed he was worth the money.
DiMaggio handled his dispute with the Yankees and owner Col. Jacob Ruppert with class and dignity.
He offered me $25,000. 1 believed I was worth as much as $40.000. At no time was there anything personal in our disagreement. If you offer $8,000 for a house and the seller insists it is worth $10,000, does that mean you are deadly enemies?
But as the season approached I began to weaken. Not because I had changed my mind about what I was entitled to, but because the game gets into your blood.
On Apr. 25, 1938, DiMaggio signed for $25,000. Since the season didn't start until Apr. 18, he missed only one week.
I have signed my contract and I can tell you there wasn't a happier man in the U. S. A. the day I went back to work. I count myself a very lucky man to be with a great club like the Yankees, working for an owner like Colonel Jacob Ruppert.
The Yankees held the upper hand, but their position on DiMaggio's hold out reveals something that most fans, especially Yankees' fans, understand but refuse to acknowledge: Money is more important than winning to baseball owners. The Yankees were willing to play part of a season, or even an entire season, without DiMaggio.
The Yankees got their $25,000 worth. DiMaggio batted .324/.386/.581 with 32 home runs and 140 RBI. Twenty-five thousand dollars in 1938 is the equivalent of about $401,870 today.
The players' minimum salary in 2011 was $414,000.
Today's rookies have a higher salary than Joe DiMaggio wanted, and the Yankees refused to pay in 1938.