Babe Ruth made his major league debut 100 years ago today

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On July 11, 1914, the Boston Red Sox gave a 19 year-old pitcher the start. They had just purchased his contract from the minor league Baltimore Orioles a week before. The delay in getting to Boston was due to the Sox being on a road trip down to Washington. There was no rush to get him on a train, so he cooled his heels for a few days. No need to change plans for some kid named Babe Ruth.

Ruth would tell people later that, that very morning, he met his future wife, Helen Woodford, when she served him in a coffee shop. Others have cast doubt on this. Regardless of the truth, it was a big day for the guy, both in reality and in his memory years later.

That afternoon Ruth made his big league debut. He pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on three hits and picked up the win. He only struck out one guy, though. Which was the same number of times he struck out while batting, as he posted an 0 for 2 day. He lost his next start and after that wasn’t used by the Sox all that much, pitching in only five games all year. The Red Sox weren’t really the big news in Boston that year anyway. The Braves won the World Series and became something of a sensation in doing so.

Ruth would have a handful of better days ahead. In the meantime, here’s the box score from the game which launched a legend.

 

Minor League Baseball teams sold over $70 million in merchandise in 2017

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Every so often here, we discuss the criminally low pay of Minor League Baseball players. Most of them make less than $7,500 a year, which includes the regular season as well as spring training, playoffs, and offseason training. The abysmal pay forces minor leaguers to eat unhealthy food, live in cramped quarters, and forego consistent, quality sleep, among other things.

What makes this situation worse is that Minor League Baseball is a huge money-maker for their parent teams in Major League Baseball. Josh Norris of Baseball America reported yesterday that Minor League Baseball teams sold $70.8 million in merchandise in 2017. That represented a 3.6 percent increase over the previous record set in 2016. This is just merchandise. Now think about concession and ticket sales.

Minor League Baseball COO Brian Earle said, “Minor League Baseball team names and logos continue to be among the most popular in all of professional sports, and our teams have made promoting their brand a priority for their respective organizations. The teams have done a tremendous job of using their team marks and logos to build an identity that is appealing to fans not just locally, but in some cases, globally as well.”

You may recall that Major League Baseball had been lobbying Congress to pass legislation exempting minor league players from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Doing so classified baseball players as seasonal workers, which means they are not entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay. That legislation passed earlier this year. Minor League Baseball generates profits hand over fist and it is now legally protected from having to share that with the labor that produced it.

Many points of divergence led us to this point, but the question is how do we change it? Minor leaguers are routinely taken advantage of because they don’t have a union. Compare the minors in baseball to the minors in hockey, where minor leaguers have a union. As SB Nation’s Marc Normandin pointed out last month, the minimum salary for American Hockey League players is $45,000 and the average salary is $118,000. They receive a playoff share of around $20,000, and receive health insurance that covers themselves as well as their families. Furthermore, the minor league hockey players’ per diem is $74, about three times as much as minor league baseball players’ per diem of $25.

Major League Baseball and its 30 teams have shown no inclination towards treating minor league players simply out of moral obligation or good will, so the minor leaguers need union coverage to force their conditions to improve. This could be as simple as the MLBPA expanding its coverage to the minor leagues because, after all, some minor leaguers do become major leaguers, right? Or the minor leaguers could themselves create a union. It’s easy to say, but tougher to do, which is why they still don’t have a union.

At any rate, every fan of baseball should be enraged when they read that Minor League Baseball keeps setting records year after year when it comes to selling hats and t-shirts, then refuses to share any of that wealth with the labor responsible for it. It’s morally reprehensible.