National League Salaries, 1957-63
While reviewing several boxes of the Garry Herrmann Papers at the Hall of Fame Library, I came across a handful of confidential National League reports from a later era, apparently misfiled by the Reds as they were packing up the Herrmann materials. These documents, the NL President's Reports for 1958, 1960, 1961 and 1963, contain summaries of team payrolls and aggregate player salaries for the 1957-63 seasons. To my knowledge, the data below has never before been made public.
National League Team Payrolls, 1957-63
|Team A (Highest)||$496,000||$532,500||$585,000||$588,500||$649,200||$576,750||663,750†|
|Team J (Lowest)||340,000||311,150|
Note: Teams are ranked from highest to lowest in each season. "Team A" designation does not necessarily carry over from one year to the next.
* - Handwritten notation identifies this team as the Cincinnati Reds.
** - Handwritten notation identifies this team as the St. Louis Cardinals.
† - Handwritten notation identifies this team as the San Francisco Giants.
‡ - Handwritten notation identifies this team as the Milwaukee Braves.
# - Handwritten notation identifies this team as the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Comments: The January 14, 1959 Sporting News published team salaries for 1957 and 1958. TSN's numbers differ from the "official" figures above, but from them it's reasonable to conclude that in 1957, the Dodgers and Braves are "Team A" and "Team B," respectively, with the Cubs "Team G" and Pirates "Team H." In 1958, the Braves and Dodgers probably switched places, while the Pirates remained "Team H." Despite their low salaries, the 1958 Pirates finished second to the Braves, and the Pirates went on to win the World Series two years later.
The Cincinnati Reds achieved the near-impossible in 1961. The 1960 Reds finished sixth in payroll and sixth in the standings. Between 1960 and 1961, the Reds pared $14,000 from their payroll - while simultaneously improving the club by 26 games and winning the NL pennant.
Distribution of NL Salaries, 1957-63
Note: For 1957-59, figures represent base salary. 1960-63 data includes all bonuses except signing bonuses.
Comments: From the table, it's possible to estimate the average salary for various types of player. Rookies earned the minimum. Young reserves received $7,500-$10,000, with older reserves and young regulars earning $10,000-$20,000. The salary of the typical starting player rose from around $15,000 in 1957 to almost $20,000 in 1963. From 1957 through 1959, only All-Stars enjoyed base salaries of $25,000 or more, while by the early 1960s a top player could expect to receive a salary plus bonus of $35,000.
The NL's two $75,000-plus players during this period were almost certainly Stan Musial and Willie Mays, with Warren Spahn the highest-paid pitcher. Published salary estimates from this period are so incomplete (and often so inaccurate) that it's hard to know who else broke the $50,000 barrier. Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks are strong candidates.
The President's Reports also provide average National League player salaries for the ten years 1954-63. Over this period, the average salary climbed 39%, as follows:
Finally, in 1963 the NL's two highest-paid umpires, Al Barlick and Jocko Conlan, each earned $18,500 (almost as much as the average player), while junior arbiter Lee Weyer earned the same $7,000 received by most rookies. Despite Richie Phillips, umpire salaries haven't kept pace with player compensation...
Copyright © 1999 Doug Pappas. All rights
Originally published in the Fall 1999 issue of Outside the Lines, the SABR Business of Baseball Committee newsletter.