Although he hasn’t played for the better part of a century, Babe Ruth remains one of the best and most famous baseball players. The Sultan of Swat towered over other players in both stature and performance, saving the sport from the 1919 Black Sox scandal and bolstering baseball fandom.
The game has changed so much since Ruth played, but he’d likely be just as dangerous of a hitter today as he was in his prime. One thing’s for sure: Ruth only made a fraction of what today’s players make. If you account for inflation, what would Ruth’s salary be now?
Babe Ruth’s salary during his career
When pro baseball began in the 1870s, the highest-paid player was the Cincinnati Reds’ Harry Wright, who made $2,500. This amount would likely cover about a half-inning for Bryce Harper these days. Compared to today’s salaries, Ruth made pennies during his career.
But for his time, he was paid rather handsomely. Here are two examples of Ruth’s salaries during his career:
- In 1922, Ruth signed a three-year contract that paid $52,000 per season.
- In 1930, Yankees executives gave him a nice raise, hiking up his annual pay to $80,000 per year. This gave him a higher annual salary than President Herbert Hoover. When told this, Ruth said, “I know, but I had a better year than Hoover.”
Few players saw those kinds of numbers. In 1927, fellow legendary hitter Ty Cobb made between $75,000 and $80,000, but the norm was far less.
What do the highest-paid MLB players make today?
- Mike Trout: $37 million
- Gerrit Cole: $36 million
- Max Scherzer: $35.9 million
- Nolan Arenado: $35 million
- Stephen Strasburg: $35 million
- Zack Greinke: $35 million
- Justin Verlander: $33 million
- Manny Machado: $32 million
- David Price: $32 million
- Clayton Kershaw: $31 million
Clearly, MLB teams place a premium on pitching. Seven of the 10 highest salaries belong to starting pitchers, including the megadeal handed to newly acquired Yankees’ starter Gerrit Cole this offseason. But the highest salary belongs to Mike Trout, an outfielder like Ruth.
What would Babe Ruth’s salary be in today’s MLB?
Using $52,000 and $80,000 as Ruth’s salary figures, let’s look at what he’d make in today’s MLB. When adjusted for inflation, Ruth’s 1922 salary of $52,000 would be worth $793,814.93 today; his 1930 salary of $80,000 would be worth $1,224,910.18
It’s safe to say if you inserted Ruth into today’s MLB and saw his production, he’d be vastly underpaid with those salary figures. With a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) level of 162.1, Ruth is second all-time behind only Barry Bonds.
It’s impossible to know how good he’d be in today’s game, but it’s hard to imagine that Ruth wouldn’t be able to keep up, especially given today’s advances in sports technology. The MLB legend could expect to make much more than he did back then, even if one adjusts for inflation.
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