Sunday, July 26, 2009

He Was A Professional; He Played For Money

There's a really interesting article in the March 23, 1890 edition of the Chicago Tribune that lists the salaries of players who had jumped to the PL, with numbers taken from the 1890 Spalding Guide. Since Dunlap was, to put it mildly, motivated by money, I thought I'd list his salary numbers from 1882 to 1889:

  • 1882: $1300
  • 1883: no salary listed
  • 1884: no salary listed
  • 1885: no salary listed
  • 1886: $4500
  • 1887: $4500
  • 1888: $7000
  • 1889: $5000
In yesterday's post, I listed his 1884 salary as $3200 and his 1885 salary as $4000. I have no idea what he was making in 1883 but I seriously doubt it was more than $2000.


David Ball said...

Dunlap's 1884 and 1885 salaries are subject to doubt as being perhaps inflated "fancy newspaper prices," but what's in the Spalding Guide undoubtedly comes from the league records and is more reliable.

The salary lists in the 1890 Guide itself offer a lot more information than is usually given when people republish a fragment of them, and they are very interesting. Just to take a small example, Jack McGeachy always made more money than Emmett Seery, and when you look at their records it's hard to see why that should be the case.

However, MLB put in a $2,000 salary limit after 1885, and while it was frequently disregarded, anything paid above that had to be covered by a private agreement between player and management. Either the Guide is guessing and taking unofficial information about salaries over that figure, or the League office actually knew more about violations of the salary limit than it would say publicly.

The context of the publication of the salaries is the organization of the Players League by the players' Brotherhood, and the rhetorical point of publishing them was to demonstrate that the players were not as badly treated as they claimed. So the Guide editors had motivation to push salaries up, not down.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

While I agree that there are numerous reasons why the numbers might be inflated, I don't think that these numbers are out of line with other reports of Dunlap's salary. Dunlap's salary, contracts and negotiations to gain said salary and contracts were annually reported in the contemporary press. Dunlap, himself, was usually the party making an issue of it and had a habit of negotiating through the press. Dunlap's contract situation was one of the long running baseball stories of the 1880s.

It's fascinating to see what everybody was making (especially relative to each other) and the impact that the UA and the PL had on salaries.