I am even talking about a time that was before players getting representation, the MLB players union and the trashing of the reserve clause and how it coincided with the start of free agency. Of course, the rate at which at player makes more money over the course of a contact is a lot more now than it was 10 years ago and it was more 10 years ago as opposed to 20. Though the dollars being a thrown now a days are a lot more than in the past, it has become understood how players of different generations would make more than in the generations before. It is like your grandfather having a successful career, but being successful in a time where bread is $0.05 is less lucrative than being successful in a time where bread is $2.99.
Joe DiMaggio played his MLB career with the Yankees from 1936-1951, which included the seasons of 1943-1945 that he lost to service in the military for World War II. Prior to leaving the Yankees before the 1943 season, DiMaggio had yet to make over $44,000 in a season. In fact, after making his same $43,750 salary he made in 1942 in 1946 and 1947, he received a raise to $65,000 for the 1948 season. DiMaggio was then given a raise to $100,000 a season for 1949 and 1950 before making $90,000 in the last season of his career.
Mickey Mantle saw the benefit of coming up a generation after DiMaggio. Mantle was not impacted by World War II, nor had to play baseball at any time during the depression. However, through the 1956 season, Mantle made only as much as $32,000 in a season. In 1956, Mantle won his first MVP Award and received a raise to $60,000 for the 1957 season. He made $65,000 in 1958 and $70,000 in 1959. Due to a down 1959 season, Mantle took a pay cut for 1960, making $60,000. After finishing runner up to teammate Roger Maris in the MVP Award in 1960, he was moved back to his $70,000 he made in 1959. After hitting 54 HR and finishing 2nd again to Maris for MVP in 1961, Mantle received a raise up to $90,000 for the 1962 season. From 1963 until his last MLB season in 1968, Mantle was paid $100,000 a season.
It is plain obvious that Mantle was paid exactly paid $100,000 a season for a reason. The reason was not because of Major League Baseball and its reserve clause. The decision on how much to pay Mantle for any season was solely on the backs of the New York Yankees. They obviously made a decision that Mantle would never make more than Joe D did. Was it Joe D that mandated that Mantle, or anybody else for that matter, not make more than he did? Were the Yankees afraid to pay Mantle more than DiMaggio with the thought that DiMaggio would get mad? Whatever the reason was, it caused an injustice that likely cost Mantle money that he deserved to make. $100,000 in 1963 was a lot less money than $100,000 in 1950. Or did it?
Even DiMaggio had to see that. That is why I think this was the fear of the Yankees paying Mantle more than DiMaggio. Of all negative stories that could exist about one's character, the thought that Joe DiMaggio could have mandated to the Yankees that no player make more than his 100 grand makes Joe D sound like a narcissist completely ignorant to other players in MLB. The DiMaggio/ Mantle debate can go on forever, with older fans that saw Joe D play making the case that he was the better player. Fans from the 1960s would think their fathers and uncles were crazy as, in their own mind, nobody had the tools and skills of The Mick.
Mickey Mantle should have received more that the $100,000 a season he got from 1963-1968. Not for the fact that he was hands down a better player than DiMaggio, because I think that is up for debate. However, there was a salary battle that existed in the late 1940s with Joe D and Ted Williams. It seemed as if the two were getting paid in a league of their own. As stated before, DiMaggio made $100,000 in 1949 and 1950 and $90,000 in 1951. That was more than anybody else in baseball. After DiMaggio retired, Williams was the league's highest paid player, making $90,000 in 1951 (the same as DiMaggio), $85,000 in 1952-1954 and $67,500 in 1955. In 1956, Yogi Berra was MLB's highest paid player at $58,000, so it was obvious that the leading salary in MLB had decreased over the past couple seasons- certainly since the times of DiMaggio and Williams.
Sp perhaps my conclusions could be a little overboard. Did Joe DiMaggio mandate to the Yankees that no player make more than he did? Though it would not surprise anyone if that was the case, it is unlikely. The last paragraph shows that the leading salaries in MLB decreased dramatically after Joe D retired. Perhaps DiMaggio was the reason there was a $100,000 a year ballplayer. And probably the reason Williams made as much as he did. After DiMaggio retired, Williams salary went down as far as $65,000 a season. Perhaps it had to do with not having to compete with DiMaggio's high salary demands. What if Joe D played through 1955? Would his salary have gone down at the rate that the other high salaries did? Part of it was Joe D being Joe D. It is understandable that he made as much as he did because of his salary demands. Perhaps Mickey Mantle did not demand as much. However, I think the fact that Mantle made $100,000 a season from 1963-1968 had something to do with DiMaggio having the highest contract for a Yankees player. It was not until 1973 when Bobby Murcer became the next Yankees player to net a $100,000 contract. In 1974, he made $110,000; I am interested to see the reaction that DiMaggio had, who by this time was no longer coaching with the Oakland Athletics.
Remember the fact that DiMaggio made sure he was introduced as the greatest living hitter during the Yankees Old Timers Days. I wonder how much that influenced Mantle not making more than $100,000 a year.