Hornsby 1922 Deal Is MLB Roof-Raiser

After hitting .397 with 21 HR in 1921, Rogers Hornsby held out for $25,000 in 1922. The Cardinals wanted him to be happy with $17K. Hornsby finally settled for a figure between $20K and $ $25K and then batted .401 with 42 HR in 1922.

After hitting .397 with 21 HR in 1921, Rogers Hornsby held out for $25K in 1922 after the Cardinals offered $17K. Hornsby finally settled for a figure between $20K and $ $25K and then batted .401 with 42 HR in 1922. – Talk about a club getting some bang for their buck! Cardinal leader Branch Rickey never met a star he couldn’t poor-mouth down the scale at salary negotiation time.



By Associated Press

St. Louis, Mo., March 9 (1921) Rogers Hornsby, leading batsman in the National League (in 1921), who has been holding out (on his salary for 1922), late this afternoon agreed to sign a contract and will depart for the Cardinals’ training camp at Orange, Tex., in time to participate in the exhibition game at Dallas Saturday with Cleveland, it is announced.

The agreement was reached after a long conference with Manager Branch Rickey. Terms of the contract were not made public but it is understood that the salary is between $20,000 and $25,000, with a clause increasing the salary if the club finishes first, second or third in the league race. Hornsby has been demanding $25,000 and the club recently offered to give him $17,000

The contract makes Hornsby the highest paid player in the (National) league.


Thank you again, Darrell Pittman, for the news clipping that inspired the presentation of this column.


As non-economists, we are not specifically sure how those 1922 dollars translate into a baseball season salary for 2015, but we seriously doubt that 1922’s .401, 42 HR hitter Hornsby’s salary would even come close to today’s MLB minimum wage. For most, if not all, of his big league administrative career, Branch Rickey reportedly had a bonus clause in his contract with employers in St. Louis and Brooklyn that paid him for money he saved in player negotiations. And he didn’t just haggle down the big stars; he did it with any player asking for a better deal than the club (Rickey) had offered.

The late Bobby Bragan told me that his trade from the early 1940s Philadelphia Phillies to the Brooklyn Dodgers was really the biggest moment in his career. In one fell swoop, he had gone from the arguably most horrible club in the big leagues – to the up and coming contender Dodgers, thanks to Brooklyn GM Rickey. When Bragan later expressed some unhappiness with Mr. Rickey’s salary offer for the following season, it became a very brief uprising. “If you’re not happy with the Dodgers, Bobby,” Rickey supposedly told Bobby, “I can always arrange for your return to the Phillies. They’ve already let me know that they wouldn’t mind having you back.”

Enough said. Bragan signed for whatever the Dodgers were willing to pay him from there. And he remained a Dodger during the major event that deeply altered his life forever. The 1947 arrival of Jackie Robinson ultimately caused Alabamian Bragan to re-arrange his thinking about race, discrimination, and prejudice – and to blossom into one of the best teachers of the game and, even more importantly, a lifelong supporter of causes to help young people.

In my book, the best baseball people are not just the guys, players or administrators, that cut the best deals for themselves alone, but for those who, like the late Bobby Bragan and the still very present Jimmy Wynn, Larry Dierker, Craig Biggio and now, young Carlos Correa too, just to name a few, who all have dedicated – and just started giving – so much energy and money of their own to programs helping disadvantaged members of our communities, – and especially, kids.

Keep it up, guys!




3 Responses to “Hornsby 1922 Deal Is MLB Roof-Raiser”

  1. Rick B. Says:

    You’re right about Branch Rickey. You’re probably familiar with this tale from his days as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ general manager: When perennial home run leader Ralph Kiner wanted a raise, Rickey told him, “We finished in last place with you, and we can finish in last place without you.”

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      That famous line was either borrowed by Rickey, or inventively much later attributed to him. It was said originally by Bill Veeck in the winter of 1951-52, when star pitcher Ned Garver told his boss that he felt his 20-12 record for the last place, 104-loss St. Louis Browns in 1951 had earned him a pay raise for 1952.

      Veeck’ answer? “We finished in last place with you, and we can finish in last place without you.”

  2. Wayne Roberts Says:

    Hornsby is buried in east Travis County in a small, hard to get to cemetery adjacent to the Colorado River. Highly mosquito infested this time of year. Occasional baseball knick-knacks are placed on his grave. Hornsby Bend in Travis County is named for his ancestors, I believe. One of his relatives is married to a former major statewide elected officeholder who tells me that the Rajah was not well liked amongst his kin,

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