Jelani Scott | Sports Editor
3,283 hits. 660 home runs. 24-time All-Star. 1954 World Series Champion.
When it comes to numbers, there is no doubt that Willie Mays, also known as “The Say Hey Kid”, is no stranger to the most grandiose of them all.
It is for this reason, and the fact that he is one of the greatest baseball players of all-time, that it only makes sense for the two-time National League MVP and 12-time Gold Glove winner to also hold a distinction based solely large numbers.
It was on February 11, 1966 that Mays, who was entering his 15th season as a center fielder for the San Francisco Giants, signed the largest deal for any baseball player in history up to that time. The contract was for two years and it allowed Mays to do what he did best: play baseball.
“I like having a two year contract. I’m 34 now and won’t have any money worries over the next two seasons,” said Mays.
In this day and age, a contract for a player of Mays’ caliber would equal upwards of $20-plus million a season for x-number of years but, in the 1960s, players competed for much less and the number the Giants ownership came up with would seem very insignificant today.
Mays’ two-year deal earned him $130,000 a year, an astonishing number at that time. The highest paid player prior to Mays was legendary Boston Red Sox left fielder Ted Williams. In 1950, Williams signed a deal for $125,000, which usurped both the $105,000 he signed for a year prior and the $80,000 that all-time great Babe Ruth made in 1930.
According to CBS San Francisco, the $325 million contract signed in November 2015 by Miami Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton will earn him $31.4 million per year for the first few seasons but a comparison of era would put every player who has even played to shame.
“Flipping that number to 1966 dollars reveals that Stanton would still be making $4,261,861 per year in 1966 dollars, 32 times what the best player at the time was earning,” the article highlighted.
While Mays will go down as one of the greatest, it’s no question that the amount he made in 1966 was not the proper compensation he should have received for his skills but that’s all his time could allow.
It’s easy to look how unfair it is that Mays got paid such a “small” amount but there is no denying that the impact he made as an African-American in the MLB carries more weight than any check ever could.