Monday, November 04, 2013

Depth Chart Inequity

It has come to light this month that many clubhouse workers for Major League Baseball teams are paid on a per game basis, an amount that is equivalent to making less per hour than the minimum wage.

The average player in that league makes $19,753 per game during the regular season or about 359 times more than a clubhouse worker.  Compare that to the fact that, on average, CEOs in major companies make 273 times more than the average worker there.

In 1965 during the first half of my senior year in high school, the ratio for CEO to worker pay was 20 to 1 (Figure C.)  Back then, my baseball hero, Mickey Mantle, who starred on the most successful team, made only 3% of what the average player in the same league makes today, or 23% when adjusted for inflation.

The federal minimum wage today is about 6 times what it was back then, but if adjusted to inflation, it should be more than 7 times by now.

It would need to be more than 10 times to be considered a livable wage.  Significant majorities of Americans, regardless of political affiliation, support setting this right.

The average Major League career is only 5.6 years.  For National Football League players it is only 3.5 years.  Stories are legion of star professional players who end up broke.  I wonder what the average is of those who serve them in the clubhouse?  There is probably no comparison.

For several reasons, NFL Hall of Famer Steve Young has always been someone I admired.  It’s not just because we went to the same university - seven years apart - nor because our great (x3) grandparents hung out together.

It’s not even because he speaks out for LGBT rights or because he was once 8th on the depth chart in college, about as far as I got in high school, nor is it because he became the highest paid professional player when he went pro.

I think it mostly has to do with how he handled that success.

In the early 1980s, the late Rolf Klug, then a friend and for many years a mentor of mine, challenged me to set aside 25% of my annual income in savings where I couldn’t touch it unless it was a dire emergency.

I began with 10% and eventually worked my way up to more than 35% before I retired several years ago.

Young was an inspiration because when he signed his first pro contract for $40 million in the early 1980s,  it called for putting $30 million in an insured annuity and spreading the rest out annually.

Of course, I never made anywhere near that kind of money but I could have saved even more had I followed his lead in one other area.

In 1987, when he became back up to Joe Montana, whom he would succeed five years later, Young was reportedly still driving a 1965 Oldsmobile Cutlass with 270,000 miles on the odometer.  In stark contrast, Joe drove a different luxury sports car to practice each day.

As it was, Steve Young never funded that annuity from the terms of his first contract.  The Donald Trump enabled USFL folded and Young was subsequently a flop with Tampa Bay, his first NFL team.  But he didn’t give up.

He kept on working to improve, becoming a starter again many years later with the 49ers and retiring a sure Hall of Famer.  Young eventually co-founded and serves as a managing director for Huntsman Gay Global Capital as well as the Forever Young Foundation for development of youth.

Oh, and the year after he completed a law degree in 1994, he threw a Super Bowl record six touchdown passes, earning MVP in that win.

But he isn’t riding on his fame.  There are no reminders of his former career in his office at HGGC but there is still the drive of a person who began 8th on the depth chart.

He is the antithesis of some other professional sports “stars” who ended up broke, and an inspiration to many.

1 comment:

jayzenner said...

I was the clubhouse boy for a couple of years for the Richmond Virginians, at the time a AAA Yankee farm team in the International league. This was in the early 60's. I was paid $5 per game plus tips, $7.50 for a double header and I got to sell sandwiches I made in my mom's kitchen between games in a those double headers. Oh, I also got a lot of beat up baseballs, cracked bats and whatever was left of the case of crappy beer that was provided by the radio sponsor every game which few of the players drank. I was very popular with my friends those summers. Some jobs you would do for half the pay.