Hi, Sports Illustrated Covers Put into Local Historical Context Fans! Welcome to Part– whatever, I don’t even remember… it’s math and I’m not here for it. I have done enough math for this post. Go back to the beginning and count for yourself if that sort of thing matters to you.

I’m getting pretty technical on this one; there are Reds on board, but in tiny baseball card-sized pictures, and you have to look closely to ensure you’re avoiding the fatal error or mistaking a Red for a Cardinal, or vice-versa. If you’re like me and suddenly furious that you can’t read light type against a transparent bottle in the grocery store, but adamantly refuse to do anything about it, here is a high-quality scan with the ability to zoom.

Behold what lay on the side table next to the football phone on April 20, 1987:


Mostly I’m just showcasing this cover because it’s nice to see an Expos logo every now and then.

What strikes me about this story choice is the timing. This showed up at the beginning of the season– why? Why not the end, when fans could measure a new batch of statistical entries in the assessment of this one guy’s contributions? That seems a more efficient emotional trigger point.

But then again, maybe that was the point.

I ran these numbers through an inflation calculator, which, first, was gut-wrenching in its reflection of inflation rates, and, secondly, offers a few interesting contrasts to draw against modern player salaries. For example, Jonathan India is the 2024 roster’s highest-paid player at 3.8 million. The man you need to buy a drink for is Tejay Antone, who, as part of a two-year contract, is pulling down a mere 180k. Only two men on the roster make less than seven figures.

I’ll list out the Reds on board here:

Rob Murphy: $95,000/$257,919.15 in 2024

Rob Murphy was one of the firemen of his era. He’d turned in a stellar season in 1986, but although it was almost a decade past Nolan Ryan breaking the $1M/season mark, that trend hadn’t quite trickled down to the Reds as of 1987. (We are pretty sure we know the reason why.) Murphy had seen enough, as Marty would say. He would leave the Reds in the next season.

Kal Daniels: $86,500/$234,842.17 in 2024

A staple in every pack of Reds baseball cards throughout the 80’s, Daniels was one of those players who was solid, dependable, and just reliably there. Here’s a Late Riverfront Era Fun Fact: Daniels was traded mid-season in 1989 to the Dodgers for… Mariano Duncan, who stayed with us for six seasons. Give a staple, get a staple.

Terry Francona: $225,000/$610,861.14

Yes, he played before he coached and managed, and we had him. Francona wandered the league on various one-year contracts. Yes, the road to two World Series and several division championships runs through Cincinnati.

That is a big jump from his two teammate’s economic stratum, my friends. A biiiiiiiiig one. Taking a look at some of the non-Reds on the page, we see several men above the million mark, including Dave Winfield, Don Mattingly, Mike Schmidt, Von Hayes, and Jim Rice.

For the most part, the market tells. But every now and then, it doesn’t.




20 Responses

  1. Mark Moore

    The gap between numbers from 4 decades ago and now, inflation adjustments not even taken into consideration, are staggering to me. I work for myself, so I have nobody to blame but me. I know money doesn’t buy happiness, but it has, on occasion, been known to rent it for a bit … 😀

    Good series, MBE. Time for BASEBALL!!!

  2. Bill Moore

    I can’t remember the year 1971 maybe but I remember the big announcement of the all-time hit leader signing a contract for $100,000. Me being in little league at the time the dreams that started in this little head /smaller brain. To think getting paid to play baseball was thought #1.

  3. LDS

    Imagine what a Morgan or a Bench would make in today’s market. I think contract values have gotten ridiculous. Contrary to Heyman’s comments, the Dodgers committing a billion plus to their payroll does not reflect a healthy situation. Such thinking is kind of how politicians think about public debt. It’s just a shame we all have to pay our bills.

  4. Rednat

    And you wonder why professional athletes are some of the most hated people on earth by the working class. Probably right in between politicians and actors lol

    • Jason Franklin

      I can understand your feelings towards them but I don’t get it. You should be hating the owners who are willing to pay the money to the players, not the players for taking the money from the owners. I assume if you were a MLB player you would want to get paid whatever the going rate was for your skill level (now that doesn’t always happen).

  5. Jason Franklin

    @Mary Beth: That it does! Also, thank you for the interesting articles every week or so. I enjoy them as a change of pace from the usual approach here. You seem to have a bright future in sportswriting.

    • Rednat

      Haha. Im quite sure the owners dont want to pay the players these monster 100 million dollar salaries so I dont think it is their fault. In fact, if they could get the players to play for free i am quite sure they would.
      I think the players unions in the nba and mlb are really ruining these leagues. I mean if this were a foot race usain bolt would be the nfl and the nba and major leagus woul be Joey Votto and Fat Albert. Tne nfl has the weakest players union and that is why it is so popular in my opibion.
      I certainly understand the desire to” get theirs” while they can but at what long term cost?
      Can leagues survive with teams consistantly only winning 20-30% of their games i.e the Detroit Pistons? Can they survive with with a 950 million disparity in payroll ie Oakland A’s and Dodgers. Seems unlikely to me and also an absurd situation. Im sure the players understand this but they are too greedy to try to change things. That is why i rank them in between actors and politicians as leasr favorite people.

      • greenmtred

        Many of the players are millionaires. Many of the owners are billionaires. As a society, we’ve shown a willingness to spend lots–many would say a disproportionate amount–on entertainment. It’s beyond disingenuous to hate the people who provide it for getting their share of the pot. How much would you pay to watch the owners doing whatever they do for three hours? I happen to agree that the money in entertainment is disproportionate and that a lot of it could be used more productively, but I also believe that, barring cataclysm, that isn’t going to happen unless we learn to entertain ourselves.

  6. Oldtimer

    OTD in 1972, Hank Aaron signed 3 year contract at $200K per season. That was the largest contract ever signed at that time. Aaron proceeded to hit 94 HR with 242 RBI and 147 / 177 / 128 OPS+ those 3 years. Not bad.

  7. Andrew Brewer

    Fortunately for us Fans, we can still get good ball players for less than exorbitant prices. I heard on the radio broadcast today that tickets for opening day in L.A. (Where they pay a billion dollar annual salary) were costing 600 bucks. The guys that are just getting by play in the minors. For Cincy, case in point, we just signed Candelaria for a 3 year 45 million dollar contract when we already had an excess of good infielders. Everyone knew we needed pitching. And, yes, we have plenty of ’em showing up for Spring Training. You tell me: Is any pitcher worth $30,000 per pitch ? And some were getting that a dozen years ago. I know there is cost sharing around the League these days, and the small market clubs need it. But something is definitely lopsided. CEO’s used to make like 7 times the annual salary of a worker. Now they make 70 times. Who is causing all the turmoil on the World Stage these days ? Yep, you know who. They are out of control, and seem determined to make a real mess of things.