“Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?” was Paul Simon’s question more than fifty years ago. I could ask the same question about Ernie Banks and all of the other major league baseball players who couldn’t believe they actually got paid to play the game they loved.
“It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame. Let’s play two today,” was a phrase coined by Banks, who still wanted to play a doubleheader in September when his team was no longer in contention for the playoffs. DiMaggio and Banks were players from days gone by.
Now, we have the Millennials and Generation Z and their entitlement mentality. After all, they deserve all of the money they make hitting, or throwing a baseball. Actually, they deserve more. The average salary for a MLB player stood at $4.36 million in 2019.
During his 19-year Major League career ending in 1971 – all with the Chicago Cubs – Banks earned $680,500. That same year, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson was paid a $150,000 salary, making him baseball’s highest paid player ever at that time.
Gibson was the poster child for the day when men were men. On July 15, 1967, Pittsburgh Pirates slugger Roberto Clemente hit a line drive that struck Gibson and fractured a bone in his right leg. They say you could hear the bone break in the stands.
Gibson got up off the ground and told manager Red Schoendienst and a Cardinals trainer that he was fine and faced three more pitchers before collapsing and being removed from the game. Back in those days, pitchers expected to complete what they started.
Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, who pitched his entire career for the Detroit Tigers, pitched 11 complete games in 1976. Fidrych, who led the major leagues with a 2.34 ERA and won the American League Rookie of the Year award, was signed for the league minimum $16,500.
Now, you’re lucky to get six innings out a starting pitcher in a day when the average starter earns $5.2 million. And still, players complain about the rigors of a 162-game season, while spending more time than ever before on the bench, or the injured list.
And with 40 million Americans out of work and trying to make ends meet, the players are saying they don’t want to play for reduced salaries. Last month, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell said the idea of playing making sacrifices was an absurd one.
“I should not be getting paid half of what I’m getting paid because the season’s cut in half,” Snell told reporters, even though the players had agreed to just such a stipulation in late March. “I got to get my money. I’m not playing unless I get mine. Okay?”
Not okay, Blake. You get paid an absurd amount of money to play a game where you throw a baseball and try to keep batters from hitting it. Pretty simple. People who work much harder than you simply want to watch you play this game and entertain them.
But the players want their money, and there is a good chance that the players’ association will sue if the commission tells them to play a certain number of games for less money. The owners don’t want to be sued by the players, so they are balking.
“Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson? Jolting Joe has left and gone away.
Hey, hey, hey. Hey, hey, hey.”