Cy Young's Salary History
At various points in the book I have assigned specific annual salaries to Cy Young. In most cases the figures are guesses, derived from the often inconsistent sports columns of his day. The need to speculate arises from the fact that salary information was not public in Young's time. Baseball writers, to be sure, often spoke as if they knew the true figures. But on that subject John Clarkson provides us with a wise reminder: “When anybody talks about players' salaries he does not know what he is talking about.” 1
Fortunately, we are not totally at sea. For three of Young's playing seasons, his annual contracts have survived. 2 The salary figures they provide are our three baseline numbers: $1,430 for the 1891 season, $4,000 for the 1906 season, and $4,000 again for the 1909 season. (The last of these three contracts was signed with the Boston Red Sox. Although Young was subsequently traded to the Cleveland Naps for the season, the new club was presumably obliged to pay him the sum that the old club had contracted for.) In order to fill in the figures for Young's other nineteen seasons we must rely on contemporary reports in the press and on inferences we can draw from them.
Let's begin at the beginning. Various reports put Young's compensation in 1890, when he came up to the Spiders toward the end of the season, at $75 a month—presumably $150 for the remainder of that year. 3
For 1891 we have the contract figure of $1,430. (That peculiar additional $30 was probably included as the club's way of absorbing the cost of Young's uniforms, an expense that was ordinarily passed on to the player in this era.) Young performed splendidly in 1891, and if a press account is accurate, the club rewarded his good work by agreeing to provide him “extra compensation” whenever he pitched out of his regular turn in the rotation. 4