Baseball players are among the highest paid professional athletes—salaries that allow the leagues’ brightest stars to earn astronomical sums of money.
Currently, the league’s highest paid player is Alex Rodriguez, who will make $29.5 million before the conclusion of the 2013 Major League Season.
But, according to the folks at baseball almanac, Rodriguez’s current contract—while mammoth—is not unprecedented. And, while Rodriguez is the highest paid player in the history of the Big Leagues, there were other players that predate Rodriguez who—for their time—made unthinkable amounts of money.
The players on this list are all players who became some of the most affluent players in sports history due to their teams demand for their talents. Before beginning, a reminder is needed to re-establish the fact that this is an article that contracts record-breaking contracts—it is not an article chronicling the largest contracts in Major League Baseball history.
10. Alex Rodriguez with the Texas Rangers, signed on December 11, 2000
It is hard to believe. But, taking inflation into account, the current New York Yankee made more money back in 2000 when he signed with the Texas Rangers.
A-Rod’s current contract was previously stated at 29.5 million annually. But, back around the turn of the millennium, Rodriguez inked a deal with the Rangers that was worth 27,000,000 annually.
With elapsing of time-induced inflation taken into account, A-Rod made an annual $35,551,749 while he was with the Rangers—an amount of money that any reader of this list would certainly like to have.
9. Manny Ramirez with the Boston Red Sox, signed on December 11, 2000
It is a popular trend among Red Sox fans to taboo their hated New York Yankees rivals as being the “best team that money can buy”. But, anybody who follows the business portion of athletics knows that the Red Sox have a comparable ability to dish out the cash.
On the same day as A-Rod, Ramirez signed a contract with the Red Sox that was worth $20,000,000 annually. Why is that significant? Well, because Ramirez became the first player to break a twenty million dollar annual salary.
In today’s coinage, Ramirez’s 2000 salary is worth approximately $26,334,629.
8. Kevin Brown with the Los Angeles Dodgers, signed on December 12, 1998
Back in the late nineties, Kevin Brown was among the big leagues’ reigning aces. In 1998, Brown became the first player to sign a contract that was worth at least $100,000,000 collectively, and the first player to break $15,000,000 annually.
By today’s standards, Brown’s annual salary is worth $20,973,912.
7. Mike Piazza with the New York Mets, signed on October 26, 1998
It was a time when the steroid era was at its peak. And, one of the best catchers in Major League history just signed a new contract with the Mets in the wake of a trade.
Piazza, who was making $13,000,000 annually, was the first player in MLB history to crack the 90,000,000 mark.
In today’s money, Piazza was earning $18,177,390 on a yearly basis.
6. Albert Belle with the Chicago White Sox, signed on November 19, 1996
Completing the initial half of the list is the one of the most feared sluggers of the nineties.
Belle, who was coming off another MVP caliber season, signed a five-year, $55 Million contract with the White Sox. Annually, the contract was worth $11 Million.
Today, Belle would have been making $15,892,621.
5. Ken Griffey Jr. with the Seattle Mariners, signed on January 31, 1996
Ken Griffey Jr. was once one of the most feared fielders and hitters in the Major Leagues. In 1996, he was paid like it when he received an $8,500,000 salary—the first to break such a mark.
Today, the salary would be $12,280,662.
4. Roger Clemens with the Boston Red Sox, signed on February 8, 1991
As much as Red sox fans want to disown Roger Clemens—also known as The Rocket—history shows that he spent longest amount of time during his career on the baseball team of Boston fame.
In 1991, Clemens signed a contract that saw him earning over five millions dollars yearly– $5,380,250, to be precise.
Today, Clemens would have been making $8,932,812 annually.
3. Kirby Puckett with the Minnesota Twins, signed on November 22, 1989
Puckett was one of the brightest stars in baseball, and he earned a salary of $3,000,000 annually—the first player to earn such a high amount of money.
Today, Puckett would have been making $5,470,352.
2. Nolan Ryan with the Houston Astros, signed on November 19, 1979
The most legendary fireballer of all time was coincidentally the big league’s first one million dollar man.
Ryan, who now has an executive role with the Texas Rangers, signed the deal in 1979.
The reason why this contract is notable is because not only was Ryan baseball’s first million dollar earner, but he was also the first athlete in all four major sports to earn a yearly salary of the aforementioned amount.
Now, $1,000,000 is pocket change to many pro athletes—a salary reserved for the mediocre players of all four major sports. But, for the latter days of the seventies, it was a contract that was truly groundbreaking.
Today, Ryan would have been earning roughly $3,113,577.
1. Babe Ruth with the New York Yankees, signed on March 5, 1922
Babe Ruth was traded from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees on December 26, 1919. And, a few years later, the Yankees made Babe Ruth the highest paid player in professional baseball—signing him to a contract that was worth $50,000.
While this is far below the contemporary baseball player’s veteran minimum, it was a contract that was worth $677,195 in today’s money.
A little over a half of a decade later Ruth would be questioned about how his salary was greater than that of the American President’s. Ruth would respond:
“I know, I had a better year than him.”