Baseball player salaries of the 1950s and 1960s look downright feeble when compared to today's megabuck paydays. Learn what superstars Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Duke Snider, Stan Musial, Warren Spahn, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks and Sandy Koufax earned per year during their playing days.
Today's baseball player salaries dwarf those of their predecessors. Television revenue is one key component, driving baseball pay into the upper stratosphere. Superstar Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees, for example, currently earns an average of $27,500,000 per year. Other heavy hitters' annual salaries include Joe Mauer ($23,000,000), Mark Teixeira ($22,500,000), CC Sabathia ($23,000,000) and Manny Ramirez ($20,000,000). Add to that endorsement, bonus, investment and other income, and these boys of summer are doing quite well.
Here are ten superstar baseball players from the 1950s and '60s along with some representative annual salaries from their playing days. We're talkin' baseball salaries...Say Willie, Mickey, and the Duke...
Mickey Mantle (1931-1995)
Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle played his entire career with the New York Yankees from 1951-68. When Mantle broke into the big leagues in 1951, he was earning $7,500 per year as the heir apparent to Joltin' Joe DiMaggio. The Mick won back-to-back American League Most Valuable Player awards in 1956 and 1957, where he earned $33,000 and $58,000 a year, respectively. In 1968, the final year of his career, Mantle was collecting an annual salary of $100,000.
Baseball superstar Mickey Mantle - New York Yankees
Willie Mays (1931-)
Willie Mays – the vaunted "Say Hey Kid" – played for the New York/San Francisco Giants and New York Mets from 1951-73. Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979, Mays was earning $7,500 per year when he debuted in the majors in 1951. Mays first topped the $100K mark in 1963, when he was collecting an annual salary of $105,000 as one of the big guns for the San Francisco Giants. Mays enjoyed his best paydays in 1972 and 1973, where he earned $165,000 a year for his fading baseball talents.
Duke Snider (1926-2011)
The other great New York centerfielder of the Fabulous Fifties, Edwin "Duke" Snider played most of his 1947-64 career for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980, Snider's top baseball salary may have come in 1959, where according to one source he was paid $50,000 a year for his services. In the twilight of his career in 1963 as a member of the hapless New York Mets, the Duke was earning $36,000 annually. In terms of money, Duke Snider was apparently undervalued when compared to his two New York rivals Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays.
Ted Williams (1918-2002)
Hall of Famer Ted Williams – "Teddy Ballgame," "The Kid," "The Splendid Splinter," et al., – played his entire 1939-60 big league baseball career with the Boston Red Sox. In his rookie year of 1939, Williams was paid $6,500 per year. He first topped the $100K mark in 1949, where the Red Sox paid him an annual salary of $100,000. Williams' best year salary-wise came in 1958 and 1959, where he was earning $125,000 per year. No doubt Williams easily topped that figure in retirement during the sports memorabilia explosion of later years, where he and other ballplayers sold autographed balls, bats, cards and other artifacts for big bucks.
Stan Musial (1920-)
Everyone's Hall of Famer Stan "The Man" Musial played his entire 1941-63 career for the St. Louis Cardinals. Musial's annual salary for his 1941 rookie year was a paltry $2,400. By 1951, however, Musial was earning $80,000 per annum and by 1958 had attained the $100,000 mark. That figure slipped to $80,000 in 1959, with Stan closing out his career in 1963 at $65,000 a year. The quiet, reserved Musial is currently suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
Warren Spahn (1921-2003)
Warren Spahn played most of his 1942-65 career with the Boston/Milwaukee Braves. Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973 after compiling a career won-lost record of 363-245, the hard-throwing Spahn earned $50,000 in 1957. His top payday may have come in the twilight of his playing days in 1965, when he was making $73,500 a year with the New York Mets.
Jackie Robinson (1919-1972)
Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson made history when he broke baseball's "color line" in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. In his inaugural season, Robinson earned $5,000 a year, a paltry sum indeed when one factors in the virulent abuse Robinson had to endure from the racists and bigots of the era. In 1949, when he won National League MVP honors, Robby was earning $17,500. The following year in 1950, Robinson's salary was doubled to $35,000 per annum. In 1952, Robinson was collecting an annual paycheck of $42,000. Robinson played his final game in 1956.
Hank Aaron (1934-)
Hammerin' Hank Aaron played most of his 1954-76 baseball career with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves. Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982 – apparently nine hopelessly confused sportswriters felt that he didn't deserve election – Aaron earned $35,000 per annum in 1958 after winning National League MVP honors the preceding year. Aaron apparently first topped the $100K mark in 1967, closing out his career with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1975 and 1976 at a salary of $240,000 per year.
Ernie Banks (1931-)
Ernie Banks – "Mr. Cub" – played his entire big league career with the Chicago Cubs from 1953-71. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977, Banks apparently earned far less than many of his contemporary superstars. In 1966, Banks was making $55,000 per annum, which was increased to $65,000 in 1967.
Sandy Koufax (1935-)
Southpaw Sandy Koufax – a.k.a. "The Left Arm of God" – played his entire, arthritis-shortened big league career with the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers from 1955-66. One of the most dominant pitchers in the history of the game, Koufax compiled a 165-87 won-lost record, earning him induction into the Hall of Fame in 1972. In his rookie season of 1955, Koufax was paid $6,000 per year. He first topped the $100K plateau in 1965, where he earned an annual salary of $110,000. In 1966, his final year on the mound, Koufax was paid $125,000 for his services.
Baseball Player Salary Sources
- The Sporting News
- The Los Angeles Times
- Bill James Historical Abstract
- Mickey Mantle in his heyday - New York Yankees
Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved.