Old-time All-Stars didn't really receive bonuses for being selected
Rich ballplayers often get richer for making the All-Star team. Derek Jeter earned a reported record $500,000 bonus in 2011 even though he missed the game because of exhaustion. At Citi Field Tuesday, $25 million pitchers Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee will pocket $50,000 just for being selected.
Although a common clause in many contracts today, it wasn't always that way.
Back in the day, the All-Star bonus was a perk that could sway a free agent's decision. "George Steinbrenner looked at it as a small thing," former Yankees general manager Gene Michael said. "He looked at it as they made the All-Star team it was a good signing. He'd do anything to get the deal done."
Joe DiMaggio made the All-Star team in all 13 years of his career with the Yankees, but no extra cash came with the honor.
"Bonuses? Are you kidding," said Morris Engelberg, DiMaggio's longtime attorney. "In 13 years of baseball, with nine World Series rings he made $632,250," in salary.
The Yankee Clipper always felt he had been clipped. "He felt very abused financially as a baseball player," Engelberg said. DiMaggio more than made up for it after his playing career, Engelberg added, saying he earned $80 million largely by signing his name to bats and balls. "He made $300,000 for a one day card show at Hofstra," Engelberg said. "He made $4 million for signing two thousand bats."
DiMaggio's eventual successor in centerfield, Mickey Mantle, was not believed to have received any bonus money for his 18 All-Star appearances. He and teammate Whitey Ford did inadvertently receive a bonus of sorts before the 1961 game in San Francisco. The two went to play golf and ran up an $800 tab at a club owned by then Giants owner Horace Stoneham, according to writer Phil Pepe, who said Ford related the story to him years later. "Let's have a little bet," Stoneham said to Ford. "If you get Willie Mays out then you don't have to pay me anything. If he gets a hit off you, then you have to pay me double. Ford agrees, Mantle goes along. Mays strikes out -- with what Ford said was a spitter -- Mantle comes running in hopping and skipping and Mays says to Ford 'What is that crazy man doing?' Ford says, "I tell you about it later."
Former Met Bud Harrelson made the All-Star team in 1970 and 71. "We got portraits, one with a mustache, one without a mustache," he said. "And National League beer mugs in a big wood box. There was a ring. I laugh nowadays when a guy got this humongous contract and in there if he makes the All-Star team, there's a bonus. To me if you're making $20 million you better make the All-Star team."
Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski spoke to that point. "You are paying guys a lot of money, so really when you're paying them a lot of money you are expecting performance," he said. "But it's also a situation from an agent's perspective they are trying to get the most money for a player."
Bonus money was part of incentives packages that became sprinkled into contracts after the beginning of free agency in 1976. But it took a while to kick in and money didn't matter to everyone. "The joy and honor of being in it," said former Met Lee Mazzilli, who homered in the 1979 game in Seattle. "You feel like one of the elite for that day."
Sachem High School graduate Neal Heaton said he received $60,000 for making the NL team for the Pirates in 1990. "That was huge," he said of the amount. "I only made -- well not only -- $700,000, compared to today's salaries, so that was definitely a big thing for me. I just put it in the bank and invested it."
Younger players generally do not get a bonus for making the All-Star team. Matt Harvey, who may start the game for the National League, did not have the clause in his Mets contract. Most pre-arbitration players do not.
Alan Nero, who represented Randy Johnson, said bonuses are deserved by players despite their annual salaries. "It's not chump change, he's worked so hard to get there and made so little to get there that it is very significant."
And those who never got one could have long memories. In 1991, the Yankees honored the 50th anniversary of DiMaggio's record 56-game hitting streak. "George Steinbrenner calls me and says I'd like to give him a LeBaron," Engelberg said. "I said George 'Joe DiMaggio is not going to drive a LeBaron' . . .Give him a Mercedes, white with Yankees blue stripes."
Sure enough, on the day, the Mercedes was presented to DiMaggio. "I'm standing with Mickey Mantle," Engelberg said. "He says to me, 'I hope they fill the car up with gas or else Joe won't take it."