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Baseball’s primary concern has always been making money, a goal which is shared by both owners and players.
Many of today’s fans, especially older fans, resent players’ salaries.
They read or recall when players worked in car dealerships or clothing stores during the winter to supplement their baseball incomes, which free agency has changed, but it has always been money first and winning second.
Joe Medwick Was a Great Star
Joe Medwick’s trade from the Cardinals to Brooklyn in 1940 is an excellent example.
Medwick joined the Cardinals in 1932. He never batted less than .306, and in 1937 he led the National League with 31 home runs, 154 RBIs, and a .374 batting average. In those days, it was not yet referred to as winning the Triple Crown.
Medwick Wanted More Money
Medwick wanted more money, but Cardinals owner Sam Breaden fought to keep salaries low.
In 1940, Medwick was making $18,000, which was one of baseball’s better salaries, although it was acknowledged that he deserved more.
Medwick was bitter at the way the Cardinals treated him, but it never affected his game, which was true for most players since their salary was based on the previous year’s performance.
The Cardinals Traded Medwick to a Primary Rival
The Cardinals, Dodgers, and Reds were embroiled in a tight pennant race when, on June 12, 1940, the Cardinals sent Medwick and pitcher Curt Davis, who had won 22 games in 1939, to Brooklyn for outfielder Ernie Koy, pitcher Carl Doyle, minor leaguers Sam Nahem and Bert Haas, and at least $100,000.
Trading Medwick to a primary rival was not as important as getting rid of a player who continually held out for more money. The $100,000 was also nice.
Medwick Was Elated
When he discovered he had been traded, Medwick was elated. “I’m the happiest guy in the world. Nothing ever happened to me that tickled me so much.”
Brooklyn had agreed to increase Joe’s salary to $25,000 a season, which helps explain his joy. He and Brooklyn manager Leo Durocher were also close friends from their days with the Cardinals, which was an added bonus for both.
The Reds easily won the 1940 pennant, but in 1941, Medwick hit .318 with 18 home runs and 88 RBIs to help Brooklyn win its first pennant since 1920. It was Medwick’s last solid season.
Medwick Joined the Giants
In July of 1943, he had become a part-time player and was put on waivers.
The only team that claimed him was the last place Giants, who put in so many waiver claims that they hadn’t realized Brooklyn didn’t pull Medwick off the list when he was claimed. New York paid Brooklyn $7,500 for the future Hall of Famer.
A Yankee? Not Really
No longer a star, Medwick was a respectable player with the Giants, who sent him to the Braves in 1945.
He later played for the Browns, the Dodgers again, and on Dec. 11, 1946, there were two lines in a story about the Yankees.
“Joe Medwick, discarded by the Dodgers after last season, has signed a Yankee contract.”
On April 29, 1947, the Yankees released Medwick before he played a regular game for them. A few weeks later, the Cardinals signed him, and although he hit .307 in limited duty, Joe was finished.
Leverage Has Shifted
Before free agency, players, especially greats such as Joe Medwick, had little leverage. They accepted what the owners offered, or they didn’t play.
Medwick had been an integral part of the Cardinals’ Gashouse Gang, but money, or a lack of money, compromised his loyalty to the team.
Free agency has given the players the leverage. Salaries are not based on what a player did last season. They are based on projections of what teams believe a player will produce in the future.
All that has changed is who is in charge of the money.
By KINGSLEY CHILDS Times Wide World. (1940, June 13). STAR OUTFIELDER TRADED BY CARDS: COME TO THE DODGERS FROM THE CARDINALS. New York Times (1857-Current file),30. Retrieved June 28, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2005). (Document ID: 113092162).
By ROSCOE McGOWEN. (1940, June 14). Medwick and Davis Join Dodgers for Big Series With Reds Opening Today. New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 27. Retrieved June 28, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2005). (Document ID: 112741145).
By JOHN DREBINGER Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES. (1943, July 17). DODGERS TRANSFER MEDWICK TO GIANTS. New York Times (1857-Current file), 9. Retrieved June 29, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2005). (Document ID: 85110381).
By JAMES P. DAWSON. (1946, December 11). BOMBERS LAND MEDWICK. New York Times (1857-Current file), 47. Retrieved June 29, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2005). (Document ID: 88389952).
By JAMES P. DAWSON, & Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES. (1947, April 30). YANKEES RELEASE MEDWICK OUTRIGHT, New York Times (1857-Current file), 28. Retrieved June 29, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2005). (Document ID: 88780446).