Today in sports history (1927), the legendary Babe Ruth signed a three-year contract with the New York Yankees, valued at $27,000 per year. The deal made him the world’s highest-paid athlete at the time and launched him into arguably the best three-year string of his incredible 22-year career.
Babe Ruth Gets Blockbuster Contract
Babe Ruth played professional baseball at the highest level for almost 22 years. The more amazing part is that he was very productive both fielding and batting for almost every one of those 22 years. By the time 1927 rolled around, he had certainly earned his money. The 1927 MLB season marked his 14th professional season, and the end was far from sight.
This blockbuster Babe Ruth contract ended up working out very well for the Yankees, as Ruth would go on to rack up 537 hits, 442 runs, 465 RBI and 160 home runs lifting the Yankees to back-to-back World Series Championships in 1927-28. As the cherry on top, Babe’s Yankees did not lose a single World Series game in that stretch, sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals, respectively.
The True Value of $27,000
When you hear $27,000 back in 1927, does it sound like a lot or a little to you? Any way you slice it, given the attention and talent Babe Ruth brought to Yankee Stadium each and every night, $27,000 might be the best-valued deal any team has ever inked.
Let’s compare some quick numbers from both back then and today.
In 1927, $27,000 would be equivalent to about $436,000 today. Now, admittedly, that is a lot of money. Obviously, times have changed. You have to factor in advertisement, TV deals, larger stadiums, inflation and many other factors. I understand all of that, but it still does not change the fact that the MLB league minimum in 2021 was well over $100,000 more than Ruth was making as the highest-paid athlete of all time and the undisputed king of baseball.
We are talking about a player who many people still consider the best of all time, or at minimum top three, and he was making less than a player today who might barely see the field or only be called upon in back-to-backs or blowouts.
Some other numbers to consider; The Mets just signed pitcher Max Scherzer for what is now the biggest MLB deal of all time at $43,333,333 for this season. At this number, Scherzer could appear in all 162 season games and would still be making a whopping $267,500 per appearance, nearly half Ruth’s yearly salary. In 2021, Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole made a salary of $36,000,000. He threw a total of 2969 pitches in the season, meaning he made over $12,000 every time he wound up. Walk a batter – make 50 grand. That is the reality of today’s MLB, and the list goes on and on.
The greater point is that the headline for today’s sports history is “Babe Ruth Becomes Highest-Paid Athlete of All Time” when maybe it should read “Yankees Rip off Best Player in Baseball History and Are Rewarded with Two World Series Championships.”