Some people say that sports develop character. Others, more realistically, contend that sports simply reveal character. Nothing reveals character quite like giving a team of major league ballplayers a lot of postseason loot to divide among themselves and their allies. The Basic Agreement between the Players Association and management specifies that 60% of the gate receipts from the first four World Series games and from the first four of each league championship series makes up the players' pool. Every player on a club's roster from June 1 to the end of the regular season automatically receives a full share if his team qualifies for the pool. Only these players can attend a shares meeting and vote on who else will get full shares, partial shares and cash grants.
Last year the pool was $11,969,881. Under baseball's current allocation system, 36% of that went to the team that won the World Series, the Dodgers; 27% to the team they beat, the A's; 25% was divided between the playoff losers (the Mets and the Red Sox); 9.5% was divided between the four teams that finished second in each division; and 2.5% was split four ways among the teams that finished third (five ways in 1988, because the Brewers and the Blue Jays tied in the American League East). How the Dodgers' money was allocated was known only to the voting players and the commissioner's office until the Dodgers beat the A's 5-2 in Game 5 to win the Series.
As the winners celebrated in the Los Angeles locker room, relief pitcher Jesse Orosco yelled over to Todd Maulding, the Dodgers' bullpen catcher, "Todd, what's it feel like to be $108,000 richer?" That was how Maulding, who makes $22,000 catching and pitching batting practice and warming up pitchers, found out that he had been cut in for a full share—worth $108,664.88—of the Dodgers' postseason winnings.
Maulding ran to the dugout to find his wife, Beth, who was waiting for the clubhouse celebration to end. After that, Maulding doesn't remember too much. "I didn't know you could get drunk without drinking," he says. "It was like hitting the lottery."
October 30, 1989
On the advice of Mike Scioscia and Orel Hershiser, Maulding bought a three-bedroom, three-bathroom house in Rancho Cucamonga, a town 55 miles east of Dodger Stadium. "My wife and I refer to it as the 24-Man House," says Maulding. "It's the players' money. This was a special gift from the players."
Maulding was the grateful beneficiary of a share-and-share-alike mood when the players voted, but the Dodgers' current second baseman, former Yankee Willie Randolph, has seen enough shares meetings during his 15-year career to be leery of the process. "You get to see who your friends are really quick," says Randolph. "A lot of the younger players like to argue back and forth. Sometimes it's humorous and you have fun with it. And sometimes you look across the room and go, 'Wow! That's cold!' "
First baseman Pedro Guerrero found out just how cold it can get in Los Angeles at Series time. Guerrero had been with the Dodgers through three quarters of the 1988 season before being traded to St. Louis for pitcher John Tudor. Guerrero was voted a half share. Tudor, who pitched in nine games for the Dodgers, received a three-quarters share. "What ticked me off is they gave John Tudor more than they gave me," says Guerrero. "A lot of them voted like that just because they're——, because they didn't like me."
O.K., Pete, but how do you really feel? "I told [the Dodgers] if you want your money back, I'll give it back," says Guerrero. "I've got more than all you guys put together."
The players on teams with a chance to finish third or higher in their division vote on shares in late September or early October and then submit a list to the commissioner's office before the playoffs begin. The player representative runs the meeting. Generally, voting is done by a show of hands; majority wins. "Actually, you don't really vote," says San Diego outfielder Tony Gwynn. "A guy says a name and a couple of guys say, 'Screw him,' and a couple say, 'No, he deserves it.' Whoever makes the loudest noise wins."
"Ninety-five percent of it is cut and dry," says Dodger player rep Dave Anderson. The tough decisions are what to do with players who were with a team part of the season, either bouncing back and forth between the bigs and the bushes or coming to or leaving the club as part of a trade. Typically, length of service will determine a share. If a rookie is up half the season, he will get a half share.
But as Guererro can attest, not always. In 1982, Milwaukee acquired pitcher Don Sutton from the Astros in late August for the stretch run. Going into the final series of the regular season, against the Orioles, Sutton's record with the Brewers was 3-1. The players voted him a one-third share, just as they did pitchers Doc Medich and Pete Ladd, who had also joined the club in midseason. Before the final game against Baltimore, a game that would send the winner into the playoffs, several Brewers suggested to player rep Ted Simmons that if Sutton won the game, he should get a full share. Sutton pitched and Milwaukee won 10-2. Sutton received a full share, much to the surprise of some of his teammates, who were not informed of the last-minute change. Which is to say nothing of how Medich and Ladd presumably felt.
Sutton followed rule No. 1 for getting a big share: It is better to be a one-day wonder in September than Player of the Month in April. "If you were only around in the first half, by September, well, out of sight, out of mind," says Giants catcher Bob Brenly. "A lot of guys will say, 'To hell with him.' "
This year Brenly followed rule No. 2 for raking in postseason bucks: Play on more than one contender. He was with Toronto for three fifths of the season, was released by the Blue Jays and was picked up by San Francisco for its pennant drive. Brenly will receive partial shares from both teams.
There are no guaranteed rules for getting series shares for those who don't play. "A player's contribution to the club can actually be measured," says Brenly. "It's hard to measure the effect a clubhouse attendant or a batboy had." And how many people can play a part in getting a team into the playoffs? "Well, it seems like everyone," says Randolph. "Years ago we had one trainer, and that was it. Now you have assistant trainers, strength coaches, conditioning coaches, masseurs, masseuses and everything."
The Dodgers seem particularly specialized. One year they voted $500 to each of the three pilots who flew the club's Electra jet. Other examples of postseason money voted to nonplayers:
•In 1920, Cleveland awarded $1,000 to Kathleen Chapman, the widow of Ray Chapman, the Indians shortstop at the start of the season. Chapman died after being beaned by Yankee pitcher Carl Mays on Aug. 16.
•The 1980 Phillies gave batboy Mark Andersen a one-eighth share, worth $4,336.63. Andersen used the money to help pay for college, and he is now Philadelphia's assistant trainer.
•Groundskeeper Matty Schwab earned a full share from the 1962 pennant-winning Giants for turning the base paths in Candlestick Park into a quagmire and slowing down Maury Wills and the Dodgers in the three-game playoff that determined the league championship.
•Robert Scanlon knew how to work both sides of the field. During the 1944 season he was the batboy for both the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Browns. When those teams met in the World Series, each voted Scanlon a grant of $500.
•The alltime winner of Series shares—nonplayer division—almost certainly is the late Pete Sheehy. In the 59 years Sheehy was the clubhouse man for the Yankees, New York played in 29 World Series.
However, for every person who owes his house or his education to the World Series, there is another loudly declaiming the withered hearts of his teammates. No club has suffered as much damnation for its tightfistedness as the 1932 Cubs. In August of that season, with Chicago trailing St. Louis by six games, the Cubs bought former Yankee shortstop Mark Koenig from the Mission Reds of the Pacific Coast League. Chicago's regular shortstop, Billy Jurges, had been shot in July in what The Sporting News termed "an episode of unrequited love." Koenig batted .353 in 33 games and was instrumental in the Cubs overhauling the Cardinals. Chicago voted Koenig a half share.
The Cubs' Series opponent was the Yankees, who were outraged when they heard of Chicago's shabby treatment of their former teammate. Maddest of all was Babe Ruth. "Hey, Mark," Ruth called over to Koenig before Game 1, "who are those cheapskates you're with?"
Ruth's remark set off the most heated Word Series ever, with insults flying back and forth. When the Babe came to bat in the fifth inning of the third game with the score tied 4-4, the Cubs lined the top step of the dugout to taunt him. With Charlie Root pitching, the count went to 2 and 2, and the bench jockeys were riding Ruth unmercifully. Ruth held up two fingers, signifying that he had another strike coming. This gesture, coupled with others he made during the at bat, was interpreted by a few at the time, and by many since, to be a brazen prediction by Ruth that he was going to hit the ball over the centerfield fence, which he did. So in part, the carving up of World Series shares contributed to one of baseball's greatest legends.
In retrospect, the Cubs' apparent stinginess is understandable. Koenig was with the team less than a third of the season. The Cubs, unlike the Yankees, were not perennial contenders, and the nation, baseball included, was suffering through the Depression. Other players—and nonplayers—have been stiffed for reasons far less substantial. Even Koenig's treatment at the hands of the Cubs doesn't look all that bad in light of the fact that the same team gave nothing to Rogers Hornsby, Chicago's manager for the first two thirds of the season.
"In Kansas City, they were always fighting," says Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog, who managed the Royals in the late 1970s. "One year the Angels got Tony Solaita from us at the All-Star break, and the players didn't want to give him a share. I said, 'Why not?' And they said, 'Because he beat us a game.' "
In 1985 the Dodgers toyed with the possibility of not giving any money to Steve Howe, the excellent lefthanded reliever who left the team in midseason with a substance abuse problem. Finally, they decided to give him a one-eighth share, but only after asking if they could send the check directly to Howe's wife. They couldn't.
Many players believe that because they are the ones who bust their butts, who hit and pitch and win games, that the money is not only theirs to divvy up but also theirs to keep. The Red Sox practiced some New England frugality in 1986 by scaling back on rewards to part-time players and nonplaying personnel. The grounds crew got nothing at all, and the clubhouse attendants were voted only half shares. "The way I saw it," says Boston catcher Rich Gedman, the player rep in 1986, "and the way most of us saw it, was the ball club was making a hell of a lot of money off us. We saw the money as two weeks' salary for us, and the club should take care of its own people out of its own share." But some Red Sox players objected to their teammates' parsimony. Jim Rice, Steve Crawford and Bob Stanley reached into their own pockets to reward some of the overlooked club employees.
A lot of people assume that as salaries have escalated, players have become more generous. "What's five thousand dollars mean to a team with as many millionaires as the Dodgers?" says Los Angeles catcher Rick Dempsey. Says Hall of Fame righthander Don Drysdale, "When we played, World Series checks meant something. Now all they do is screw up your taxes."
Others think that the inflated playoff payoff has made the players stingier. "It's different now," says Oriole manager Frank Robinson. "We're talking about big, big bucks now. I've seen it get bitter. I've seen long arguments."
Says one member of the 1983 Phillies, who won the pennant that year, "We had guys arguing about every nickel and dime. Guys who were making a half-million dollars were trying to freeze clubhouse guys out of a grand. It was a disgrace."
"In New York, it was vicious," says Baltimore coach Elrod Hendricks, a catcher for the Yankees in 1976 and '77. "We'd bring up someone for a month, he'd really help us, and the guys who were making the most money—Catfish [Hunter], Thurman [Munson], [Graig] Nettles, [Ken] Holtzman—would say, 'Screw him.' I would sit back there and laugh."
The '76 Yankees, the best team money could buy, voted not to give anything to the batboys. When it was announced that their Series opponent, the Reds, had given their batboys quarter shares, each worth $6,591, the bighearted Yanks gave each of their kids $100.
In all likelihood, the mix of sinners and saints, the openhanded and the tightfisted, has been pretty constant over the years. The World Series might have seen one perfect game, but it is not likely ever to see a perfect shares meeting. "There is no way to do it perfectly," says Dempsey. "There are not too many accountants playing baseball."