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The National Pastime Today – January 9, 2018

Happy Tuesday everyone. With another college football season now completed (Alabama, again) and the NFL playoffs well underway, baseball season feels much closer now. Right? Or am I just deluding myself? Anyhow as of today, there are only 35 days until pitchers and catchers report! We here at The National Pastime Museum are in the business of making connections between baseball’s past and present. As is our Tuesday custom, in TNP Today we link the links, providing a current story with a historical perspective piece. Happy reading!

January 9, 2018
Babe Ruth was the highest paid MLB player for 13 consecutive years. His salary hit an all-time high in 1930 at $80,000.

He’s Getting How Much?!?

Three how-much-is-too-much stories currently dominate Sports Illustrated’s main baseball page. “What is Lorenzo Cain Really Worth?” “Is JD Martinez Really Worth $200 million?” “How Much Should Eric Hasmer Get Paid?” These are indeed fair and (to me at least) interesting questions. But there is another way to look at the salary question. Consider the fact that baseball fans have ALWAYS gotten worked up about how much players get paid. Going all the way back to the 1800s.

Baseball revels in traditions and nostalgia. And this tradition—of fans debating, arguing, bemoaning, and feigning disbelief about the takehome pay of ballplayers—is one of professional baseball’s most enduring rites. It’s nothing new; Graham Womack went so far as to tab it baseball’s “never ending refrain.” So, with that historical context, enjoy!      


Puerto Rico’s Short Season

In the presence of ongoing FEMA disaster relief efforts, with no night games because there are no working lights, and with a much abbreviated schedule, Puerto Rico has begun its 80th season of winter baseball. This is a tremendous accomplishment.

The recovery from Hurricane Maria is still just beginning. Only two of Puerto Rico’s stadiums are usable. Much of the island remains without power. Still, baseball will go on. Teams will play 18 games this season instead of the usual 40, but no one is complaining.

It was more than 50 years ago that Roberto Clemente and Orlando Cepeda paraded through the streets of San Juan as MLB heroes, as Tim Wendel wrote. Here’s hoping that the next chapter of Puerto Rican baseball is one of healing and prosperity.