In baseball, 21 years is a veritable eternity. Though I clearly remember being a baseball fan 21 years ago, I don’t at all remember thinking about salaries, luxury taxes or minimum payrolls. I just sat back and daydreamed about how great it would be to play on some of those great 1980s teams.
Sure, playing pro ball would have been amazing regardless of pay (and make no mistake, MLB players have done very well financially for most of baseball’s existence), but you have to wonder how many of those late 80s/early 90s stars are bitter that their parents didn’t get busy a few years later.
Murray Chase published an article for the New York Times back on April 12, 1987. Which discusses the (then) exorbitant salaries of some of our childhood heroes. Below I'll touch on the highlights.
Fifty-seven players began the baseball season (1987) assured of earning $1 million or more this year. Sixty-six players of the 663 who were on opening-day major league rosters or the disabled list will earn $62,500, the minimum salary.
- The Dodgers have soared to the top of the average-salary list with a season-opening average of $579,785.
- The Angels have plummeted to 17th at the start of the 1987 season with an average salary of $408,632, just below the major league average of $412,606.
The Highest Paid Players:
- Jim Rice of Boston, $2,412,500
- Dan Quisenberry of Kansas City, $2,293,509
- George Brett of Kansas City, $2,205,000
- Eddie Murray of Baltimore, $2,153,000
- Mike Schmidt of Philadelphia, $2,127,333
The Mets don’t have anyone in the top five, but they have five million-dollar players, which was more than any other team had. The Mets also have four players making the minimum. The Yankees have three players on the million-dollar plateau but none at the bottom rung of the salary scale.
Five clubs - Seattle, Texas, Montreal, Pittsburgh and San Francisco -have no million-dollar players. Atlanta is the only team besides the Yankees without a player at the minimum salary. Montreal has seven players earning $62,500 and Baltimore six.
No surprises here. Seattle, Montreal, Pittsburgh were never huge spenders. Ever. Texas and ‘Frisco must have been saving up for the then 11-year old A-Rod and 9-year old Zito, respectively. Now this, my friends, is good scouting.
These are the season-opening average salaries of all of the teams:
- Los Angeles $579,785
- Chicago Cubs $576,273
- Yankees $562,758
- Kansas City $531,552
- Atlanta $527,756
- Baltimore $523,658
- Boston $520,758
- Mets $519,429
- Philadelphia $488,613
- Detroit $486,272
- Minnesota $431,926
- St. Louis $429,019
- Oakland $426,582
- Houston $421,796
- San Diego $412,000
- Toronto $411,687
- California $408,632
- Chicago White Sox $372,386
- Cleveland $361,917
- Cincinnati $332,285
- San Francisco $309,846
- Milwaukee $281,781
- Texas $226,755
- Pittsburgh $221,380
- Montreal $204,740
- Seattle $181,580.
The Expos are one of four clubs - Seattle, Texas and Pittsburgh are the others - whose total opening-day payrolls are less than the combined 1987 income ($6,431,805) of the Royals’ three highest-paid players: Quisenberry, Brett and Willie Wilson