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On Bob Feller

The post on Bob Feller's self-imposed pay cut was picked up by The Blurred Brain Blog (!), where Tim added some relevant information:

After the pay cut he made $45,000. Of course $45,000 ain't what it used to be.

In 2003, $45,000.00 from 1950 is worth:

$343,850.00 using the Consumer Price Index

$287,586.21 using the GDP deflator

$571,714.59 using the unskilled wage

That's peanuts relative to today's salaries! Which prompts the question, is something wrong with the indexes?

In a word, no. Salaries in MLB today are an order of magnitude higher for two reasons. (1) Growth in media revenue since Feller's time has been astronomical. Media money has taken over from gate revenue as the financial driver of the game, and hence a player's value. (2) Players in Feller's time were subject to the reserve clause.

The reserve clause limited a player's negotiating power to the team which held (or last held) his contract. Hence Feller's opportunities were essentially to sign for what the Indians offered him, or go back to the farm and grow beans. Teams could, and did, use the reserve clause to hold wages well below the value of players during this period.

Given this environment, Feller's act of penance is all the more remarkable.