Larry Granillo has an interesting item up over at Baseball Nation today: a look at the broadcast rights fees paid to teams in 1961. Those familiar with Larry’s work know that he’s great at finding old gems in old magazines and stuff, and his finding these rights fees — which he stumbled across in a March 1961 issue of Sponsor magazine — is one of his better finds.
The high end: the Yankees, who got a combined $900K for TV and radio. The low: the Senators, who got $300K. Adjusted for inflation that’s a tad over $7 million for the Yankees and a bit over $2.3 million for Washington. In contrast, the smallest TV rights deal today is probably the Royals who pull in around $20 million or so a year. Go read the article for the whole chart.
Of course, back in 1961 the teams didn’t have to pay their players much money as they were basically indentured servants thanks to the reserve clause, so the owners did just fine, thank you. They just got a lot more money from the turnstiles than they did from the rabbit ears.