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Baseball Analysis  John Holway

Also Read: Does Size Matter?


By John B Holway

In 2011 the Washington Nationals will shell out $126 million to a new left fielder. The Phils will pay $120 million for a pitcher. Etc etc. Meanwhile, on page one, millions of Americans are suffering through the worst economic distress in 80 years, losing their jobs and their homes at record rates.

And no one asks if our priorities are wrong.

How much additional happiness will their riches buy for Jayson Werth and Cliff Lee? How many new toys can they buy? Another mansion with more sports cars in the garage and more sports clothes in the closets? A lot of that money will to their agents, but perhaps the biggest chunks may go to alimony for their ex-wives.

As the New York Mets ace reliever, Tug McGraw, said, when asked what he would do with his new wealth: "Well, I'll spend the first half on wine, women, and song. The rest I'll probably just go out and waste."

I come from a little town on the New Hampshire coast, where the Enron billionaires once threw a wild party, attended by servants of both sexes clad only in gold lame paint. The executives just couldn't think of any other way to spend their money.

At what point will a player lean back, survey his world, and say, "Ah. Now I'm happy"? After the first one million? Ten million?

Babe Ruth made $80,000, tops - gee, that's more than the President made! Ted Williams started out at $7,500 as a rookie and was raised to $35,000 after hitting .400. Joe DiMaggio actually got cut $3,000 to $30,000 after hitting in 56 straight games. Ted eventually peaked at $125,000. He had a bad year and give himself a $35,000 cut.

Inflation is a factor. Those number can be multiplied by about 100 to equal today's purchasing power. So Ted's high would be about $1.25 million today.

Whether Babe, Ted, or Joe were "happy" or "unhappy,' money wasn't their problem. Babe could chase dames, Ted could chase dames and fish, and Joe could land Marilyn Monroe. Contrary to his biographers, Ted actually had a heart of gold and would empty his pockets to a stranger with a hard-luck story.

Think of how many mortgages that just half today's salaries could pay off to keep families in warm homes for Christmas. Or pay doctors' bills for families without insurance. So my suggestion is: Players who wish to, may set up a trust of, say, half their earnings to help others. That would bring them real happiness. The team could also announce that it is matching the gift with, say ten percent of the contract price. It would be a terrific way to spread goodwill in the community.

Agents could tithe 10% of their commission.

Fans could also join in: For every $100 contributed, they would receive a $10 discount on tickets, in addition to their tax breaks, and get their names on the team's Wall of Fame.

Babe Ruth and Muhammad Ali are legendary American super stars. But the first jock, rock star, or movie idol who gives generously to help others will be canonized as no home run hero has ever been.

And he'll be a happier guy than any of them.

John B Holway is author of TED, the Kid (2009, Scorpio Books).

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