Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Bonus Babies

From 1947 to 1958, Major League Baseball operated under the "Bonus Rule". Under the rule, if a team signed a new player to a contract worth more than $4,000, the team had to keep the player on the 25 man roster for 2 years and could not assign him to a farm club. If a team violated the rule, the player was exposed to the waiver wire. After 2 years, the team could assign the player to the minors.  The rule was re-instituted in 1962, when the leagues expanded by 4 teams. It was finally repealed in 1965 when baseball instituted the draft system.

It was called the "bonus rule" because it prevented wealth teams from giving large signing bonuses to young players and then stashing them in the minors, which was the practice prior to 1947.

Players between 1947 and 1965 that went directly into the majors under this rule were called "bonus babies". You can read the Wikipedia article, which is where I got most of my information, here.

The best list I could find was at Baseball Almanac. The list is of every player who went directly into the major leagues so you have to know something about the Bonus Rule to figure out who is who. The list is not complete as 4 of the 4 Hall of Fame Bonus Babies are not on it.

Since this is a baseball card blog, let's look at some cards of Bonus Babies.

As near as I can tell from this list, Curt Simmons of the Phillies seems to be the first Bonus Baby.

1949 Bowman #14

Simmons was signed by the Phillies for a $65,000 bonus in 1947, equivalent to $650,000 today. Simmons got one start in 1947, in which he pitched 9 innings, gave up one run and won the game.

The rest of the post is going to be players that I have cards for and not listed in any particular order.

1957 Topps #27
Kazanski was signed by the Phillies in 1951 for $100,000 ($917,000 today). Kazanski seems to be a Bonus Rule violation. He spent 1951 and 1952 in the minors before coming up in 1953.

2009 Tristar Obak #68
Signed by the Indians in 1952 for a measly $60,000, Score also seems to be a violation. He spent 1952-1954 in the minors coming up in 1955. He was 16-10 in his rookie season, with an ERA of 2.85 and 245 Ks.

1994 Topps 1954 Archives #174
Qualters, who was nicknamed "Money Bags" was signed by the Phillies for $40,000 in 1953. He pitched 0.1 innings, gave up 6 earned runs and sat on the bench for the rest of the season. He vanishes from the record in 1954 but shows up in the Phillies minor league system in 1955.

2007 UD Masterpieces #17
One of the more well-known bonus babies, Koufax was signed by the Dodgers in 1955 for $24,000. What a deal! He started 5 games in 1955 and 10 in 1956, going a combined 6-4. He ended his career with a record of 165-87 and an eventual Hall of Fame plaque.

1954 Topps #25
Kuenn was signed by the Tigers in 1952 for $10,000. He was another successful Bonus Baby. Although he only appeared in 19 games in 1952, he played a full season in 1953, hit .308 and was the American League Rookie of the Year.

Let's finish this up with the other 3 Bonus Babies that made it to the Hall of Fame.

2005 UD Past Time Pennants #1
Kaline was signed by the Tigers in 1953. He only had 28 at bats in 1953, but by the next year he was a near full-time player and never looked back. He had a .299 BA and 399 home runs in his 22 year career and was elected to the HOF in 1980.

2005 Upper Deck Classics #42
Killer was signed by the Senators in 1954. He had limited major league playing time in his first 2 years and spent parts of the next three in the minors before exploding for 42 major league home runs in 1959. It was the first of 8 seasons where he would hit more than 40 home runs, finishing his career with 573 homers. He was elected to the HOF in 1984.

2012 Topps Allen & Ginter What's In A Name #46
Hunter was signed by the KC A's in 1964 but was sidelined that year due to a hunting accident (he took a shotgun blast from his brother to his foot). He joined the A's in 1965 and had an 8-8 record. He finished his career 15 years later with the Yankees with a career record of 244-166. He entered the HOF in 1987.

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