1 of 14Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images
Honus Wagner: $10,000
Born 140 years ago on Feb. 24, 1874, Honus Wagner was a member of the first class at Cooperstown and winner of eight NL batting titles. He was also the first player to sign a milestone contract (at the time). Just before the 1908 season, Honus Wagner planned to retire ... until Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss doubled his salary. Wagner was paid $10,000 per season from 1908 until he retired in 1917, when the average individual income in America was $807.
2 of 14Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images
Babe Ruth: $50,000
March 5, 1922: The Yankees sign Babe Ruth to a three-year deal for a record $52,000 per season. The Bambino made more salary headlines in 1930, when he became the first player to earn more money than the president: Ruth earned $80,000 to President Herbert Hoover's $75,000. When asked about it, Ruth replied, "What's Hoover gotta do with it? I had a better year than he did."
3 of 14Charles Colon/TSN/Icon SMI
Hank Greenberg: $100,00
Jan. 18, 1947: Talked out of retirement by Pirates owner John Galbreath, Pittsburgh bought Greenberg from the Tigers for $75,000 and agreed to make him the first $100,000 player. Greenberg hit the final 25 homers of his career and tutored prospect Ralph Kiner.
4 of 14Focus on Sport/Getty Images
Hank Aaron: $200,000
Feb. 29, 1972: Hank Aaron signs a three-year contract with the Atlanta Braves that pays him $200,000 per year, making him the highest-paid player in baseball.
5 of 14Focus on Sport/Getty Images
Catfish Hunter: $750,000
Dec. 31, 1974: The Yankees sign Jim "Catfish" Hunter to a five-year, $3.75 million contract. This is triple the salary of any other major league player. More significantly, the deal illuminated the potential of free agency for superstar players and teams that could afford them.
6 of 14Focus On Sport/Getty Images
Nolan Ryan: $1 million
Nov. 19, 1979: The Astros sign free agent Nolan Ryan to a four-year, $4.5 million contract, making him the first to average more than $1 million a season.
7 of 14Focus On Sport/Getty Images
Dave Winfield: $1.5 million
Dec. 15, 1980: Dave Winfield becomes the highest-paid player in baseball when he signs a 10-year, $15 million contract with the Yankees. It is the first eight-figure deal for a player in major league history.
8 of 14Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images
George Foster: $2 million
Feb. 7, 1982: The Mets make George Foster the first $2 million per year player when they sign him to a five-year, $10.2 million contract.
9 of 14MLB Photos via Getty Images
Kirby Puckett: $3 million
Nov. 22, 1989: With a three-year, $9 million deal, the Twins make Kirby Puckett the game's highest-paid player -- for about a week. Rickey Henderson, Mark Langston and Mark Davis signed deals of equal or greater value before Opening Day.
10 of 14Chuck Solomon/SI
Jose Canseco: $4 million
June 28, 1990: The Oakland A's raise the salary bar when they sign Jose Canseco to a five-year, $23.5 million extension that yields $4.7 million per season.
11 of 14Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images
Roger Clemens: $5 million
Feb. 8, 1991: Roger Clemens' four-year, $21.5 million extension to remain with the Red Sox was surpassed before Opening Day (by Ryne Sandberg), but The Rocket was the first to reach and exceed $5 million per year.
12 of 14Henny Ray Abrams/AFP/Getty Images
Albert Belle: $10 million
Nov. 19, 1996: The White Sox sign Albert Belle to a five-year, $55 million contract. Belle's average annual salary of $11 million is $2.5 million than the next highest-paid player (Ken Griffey Jr., $8,500,000).
13 of 14AP
Kevin Brown: $15 million
Dec. 12, 1998: Kevin Brown signs a seven-year, $105 million contract with the Dodgers, sending shock waves throughout baseball. It's MLB's first nine-figure deal.
14 of 14AP
Alex Rodriguez: $25 million
Dec. 11, 2000: The Rangers lured Alex Rodriguez from the Mariners with a monster 10-year, $252 million deal. Traded to the Yankees in 2004, A-Rod opted out of that contract after the 2007 season and signed a 10-year, $275 million deal to remain in pinstripes through 2017.
You May Like
Sign Up for our Newsletter
Don't get stuck on the sidelines! Sign up to get exclusives, daily highlights, analysis and more—delivered right to your inbox!