Money talks: The postseason share

The players come first. But they aren't the only ones who get a share of the postseason wealth. Mark Matcho

In the autumn of 2007, Amanda Coolbaugh was dealing with the tragic loss of her husband, Mike, who had been killed that July when a line drive struck him in the head while he was coaching first base for the Colorado Rockies' Double-A affiliate in Tulsa. She had two young sons, ages 5 and 4, and she was eight months pregnant. So as the baseball season was winding down, she was struggling. How would she be able to raise her children? How would she pay for their college educations? How would she pay for their health insurance?

"When Mike was killed, his paycheck was instantly gone," she says.

And then Amanda received a phone call from a reporter who told her that the Rockies had voted her a full share of their postseason earnings. Colorado played in the World Series that year. A full postseason share wound up to be $255,000.

"I still don't even know how to put it into words," she says of her reaction. "First, it was totally unexpected. I didn't realize the shares could include anyone but players. I wouldn't have that information. And that year, Mike was in the minor leagues, not with the big league club. So it was completely unexpected.

"So when the reporter called me, I thought he had it wrong. I told him, 'You have the wrong information; you don't know what you're talking about.'"

The reporter did know, though. Postseason money can -- and does -- go to people other than the players, as long as the players vote to do so. And the Rockies had voted unanimously to give Amanda a full share.

"It was one of those things that was just a no-brainer," says reliever LaTroy Hawkins, one of the players heading up the Rockies' vote in 2007. "She had several small kids. She was pregnant, and he had lost his life on the baseball field. His family loved baseball. We just wanted to show we were thinking about them and wanted to help. It was just a little something to help the kids. And we were all on the same page about doing it."

Amanda says she was so overwhelmed that she didn't know how she could adequately thank them all.

"When they did that, it made you realize there are good people in the world," she says. "And it was people who didn't know me from Adam. They knew my husband from playing, or they had bumped into him. It was something I would be able to describe to my kids later. I want them to have Mike's personality -- that when you need something, people are willing to come through and help. It's a teaching tool: 'Look how much your daddy was loved. That's how you want to be to others. You always want to help people.'

"It was life-changing for us as soon as it happened and I realized it was real. It was heaven."

Postseason shares date back to the very first World Series in 1903. The stories of how much they are worth -- they've grown from $1,182 for the first champions (check out the chart at the bottom of this story) to as high as $377,000 for the 2012 Giants -- and whom they go to are nearly as interesting as the games themselves.

But sometimes, the players aren't nearly as generous as the 2007 Rockies were.

As Jim Bouton noted in "Ball Four," Frank Crosetti received 23 World Series shares while playing and coaching with the New York Yankees from 1932 to '68. If those were all full shares, Crosetti received about $160,000, or roughly $1.6 million in today's dollars. Impressive? Derek Jeter received approximately $2.3 million in postseason shares (nearly $3 million in 2014 dollars) during his career.

Miguel Cabrera received a lot of unwanted attention a few weeks ago when he joked that he wasn't interested in a postseason share, which he will get since every team that makes the postseason gets a split of the revenue. He said he only wanted a World Series ring, which he obviously won't get.

Given that Cabrera's contract will pay him $292 million over 10 years, it's maybe understandable that a postseason share might not be that important to him. Nor is he alone when it comes to shares being worth disproportionately less than a player's salary. For example, last year's World Series winner's share was $307,000 (shares vary from year to year depending on how many are distributed and on the gate receipts, which is why the 2013 shares were less than the Giants received in 2012), while the major league minimum salary was $500,000 and the average salary was close to $3.4 million. And if you don't win the World Series, the disparity between salary and share is even larger.

This hasn't always been the case.

From the very first World Series, postseason shares have been based on a fixed percentage of the postseason gate receipts. In the days before the union became a force, those shares often were more than the average player's annual salary. As Jim Palmer told the Baltimore Sun recently, his 1966 World Series share was $11,638 -- or one-third more than his $7,500 salary that season. From the late 1960s to 2000, winning shares were more than the minimum salary.

"Players were making good money back in my day; but compared to today, [shares] were more significant," says Mariners coach Andy Van Slyke, who played in three postseasons with the Pirates (1990-92). "For some guys, a postseason share pretty much matched their salary -- whereas in today's game, it doesn't matter how much the postseason share is. It won't match a guy's season salary.

"My take is guys are a lot more generous with their shares today than they used to be. Do you think a postseason share is going to change Robinson Cano's life? No. It will not change his life in any way, shape or manner."

Not with a $240 million contract, it won't. But when specifically asked about this, Cano says postseason shares are still important. Even with as much money as he earns, he says, he can always give a share to one or more relatives and perhaps change their lives.

That is precisely what Hawkins says he has taken into account when deciding on postseason shares.

"I want to give the money to people where it will change their lives," Hawkins says. "We had a guy in 2007 who worked in our clubhouse. We gave him a half-share and he was able to buy a house, a car, go back to school. He was able to buy things and do things he wouldn't have been able to do otherwise.

"That money is not going to change our lives, but it will change the clubhouse kids' lives. You take a 20-year-old kid in college and give him $80,000. That's giving a head start, a good head start."

Which isn't to say the money doesn't mean much to the players, especially those who haven't been in the league long. Kansas City outfielder Lorenzo Cain, who became a full-time regular in the majors in 2013, lost his father when he was 4. His mother had to work so many jobs to raise the family that Cain didn't start playing organized baseball until high school so as not to add to her burden.

"I think it helps everyone," he says of the shares he and his teammates will receive this year. "I haven't made millions of dollars. I'm still making [about] the minimum. It helps me out, too. It helps everyone. It helps the trainers, the people in K.C., all the guys who work for us, the clubbies. It changes lives. That kind of money changes people's lives. I'm just happy we were able to come this far, to not only help myself and my family but other people's families as well. It's definitely a blessing."

Of course, how much a share is worth depends on how many shares the players distribute. And that is where things get intriguing.

Bengie Molina began the 2010 season with the Giants, then was traded to the Rangers in July. Because both teams made the World Series, he received a postseason share from each. He also reportedly received a World Series ring from the Giants as well.

The distribution of postseason shares is determined at a players-only meeting held near the end of the season. The more shares players distribute, the less each is worth. Thus, arguments over who gets what can be as rancorous as a Congressional budget battle.

"You would be surprised at the s--- you hear at those meetings," says former Oakland (now Boston) hitting coach Chili Davis.

"There were a few guys who got laid on the guillotine, to say the least. Just totally having their heads chopped off and getting nothing," Van Slyke says. "A lot of it depended on what kind of guy you were and what kind of contribution you made to the team. ... So there were some heated discussions about who should get what and how much. We had one guy who had been traded to our team and really helped us down the stretch. And we gave him a full share. Then there were other guys who were on the team and got traded to another contending team and we said, 'Screw it. If they like him over there, they can give him whatever they want. But nothing from us.'"

Generally speaking, partial shares are prorated by percentage of the season a player was with the team. But it can be higher or lower. The 2004 Red Sox, for instance, voted a three-quarters share to Nomar Garciaparra, who was traded at the July 31 deadline.

"Sometimes it's a question of how much time that person was with the team and how much that guy contributed while they were here," says Davis, who received postseason shares with the Giants, Twins and Yankees. "Just because they didn't get a chance to play every day, that's not their fault. They were here every day for two months.

"Do you give the guys a full share or do you break up a share and give them an eighth each? [You talk about] all that kind of stuff. They would name a guy who came up with the team for two days or something. 'What about so-and so, what do we give him?' 'F--- it, give him a McDonald's gift certificate.'"

Hawkins says the meetings don't always go smoothly, but they don't get to the point where players start fighting.

"Like with anything else, you disagree," he says. "But that's why there is a vote. If you lose the vote, you move on."

Cano says the Yankees usually held their postseason shares meeting somewhere around the last week of the season. Oakland infielder Eric Sogard says the Athletics have held their meetings around the same time, though he thinks they always waited until after they'd clinched a postseason spot.

Which is when Van Slyke says they should be held.

"I don't think we ever had a meeting until we clinched," Van Slyke says. "I don't think you should have a meeting until you clinch."

Is that because you don't want to jinx the team?

"I don't believe in superstitions," Van Slyke says. "I think they're bad luck."

When Boston won the first World Series in 1903, its players received $1,182 apiece. Pittsburgh's players, meanwhile, received $1,316.25 for losing. No, Arnold Rothstein and other gamblers were not involved -- the Pittsburgh players received more money because Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss donated his entire amount of the gate receipts to them. This is the only time the losing team received a larger share than the winning team.

Similarly to what the Rockies did for Amanda Coolbaugh in 2007, Cleveland's players voted a $1,000 1920 World Series share to Ray Chapman's pregnant widow after the infielder had been killed by a pitch two months earlier.

In 1942, the Yankees voted a partial World Series share -- variously reported as $200 to $1,500 -- to former bat boy Tim Sullivan, who was then serving in the Coast Guard. In 1950, Cleveland's players gave a secretary, Noreen (Cricket) Schmidt, a one-half share of their fourth-place money ($173.70) "for typing letters for them, answering photo requests, etc." Hawkins says one of his teams -- he's played in the postseason for the Twins and the Brewers in addition to the Rockies -- voted a share to the team chaplain.

Is there anyone to whom players can't give money?

"You can give it to a beat writer if you want," Van Slyke says. "But that's not going to happen. That's not going to happen."

Probably not, but the range of people receiving shares keeps growing.

"We go to trainers, clubhouse guys, security guards," Sogard says. "We try to think of everybody we can and get them all a piece."

"Now, you have so many peripheral people -- massage therapists, video coordinators. You've got strength and conditioning coaches -- all these people," says longtime Oakland traveling secretary Mickey Morabito. "All these people are in that category where you can vote them the equivalent of a share. It's a paperwork thing."

Interestingly, traveling secretaries, who have one of the most demanding jobs in the game, have occasionally been singled out to NOT get a share when players were upset with the season's travel and hotels. For a time, Morabito says, there was even something called the Howard Fox rule -- named after a one-time Twins traveling secretary -- that banned traveling secretaries from receiving shares. Now, they are as eligible as anyone else for cash grants, though they don't always get one. Says three-time World Series winner Jack Morris: "In 1984, the traveling secretary got voted absolutely f---ing nothing."

(Then again, it could be risky for some players to not take care of the traveling secretary, since he is privy to, shall we say, sensitive inside information regarding room and ticket requests and "what happens in Vegas.")

Van Slyke says that when he was with the Pirates, they were sure to vote money to various non-players and coaches, but there was a limit. Some players suggested giving shares to the usher in the section where the wives and girlfriends sat.

"And to say the least, there were some objections to that," Van Slyke says. "One guy would say, 'What about the grounds crew?' And the grounds crew in Pittsburgh didn't have a chance. They were union and didn't like to work."

This, however, was not the case after the 1903 World Series, when the Pirates voted their groundskeeper a one-sixth share. Then again, he actually had to regularly mow the grass.

At one meeting, Van Slyke says, a player kept bringing up other people to include in the shares. "At one point, I stood up and said, 'If you want to be so generous, take your share and give it to all those people you just mentioned. Enough is enough. We earned this. That guy didn't earn a darn thing. You feel that generous, you give your share to that guy.' He didn't say a word and that was the end of bringing people into the discussion."

It all depends on how generous the players are.

Or aren't.

The 1976 Yankees voted to give their four bat boys only $100 apiece, and that small amount wasn't even from the postseason pool but from player fines levied in the team's kangaroo court. (The rest of the fine money went to a team party.) Worse, according to a New York Times blurb, reliever Sparky Lyle forgot to send the bat boys their checks until the following February. Three of the four bat boys were so insulted they turned down the money.

"The Yankees are cheapskates," Walter Gershoff, one of the bat boys, told the paper. "And we want everyone to remember them as cheapskates."

Postseason shares rose dramatically when divisional play and the LCS were added, increasing from $10,926 for the 1968 World Series winners to $18,338 in 1969. They continued to climb, reaching a record $377,000 in 2012. Accounting for inflation, the highest winner's share was 1998, when the Yankees took home $312,000 -- or $455,000 in 2014 dollars.

Unlike Miguel Cabrera's jest this fall, postseason shares were no joking matter for the Red Sox and Cubs in the 1918 World Series.

From 1903 ($1,182) to 1917 ($3,669.32), World Series shares generally increased, with a high amount of $4,024.68 in 1912 (about $96,000 in inflation-adjusted money). In the latter years of that stretch, the average postseason share was around $3,800. Again, that was more than many players earned for the entire season, sometimes twice as much.

Then came 1918, when the shares plunged so low -- barely $1,000 for the winners -- that the World Series nearly wasn't completed.

(Fortunately, the two teams got it finished. Otherwise, we would have been forced to listen to Red Sox fans' endless whining about the start of their suffering two years earlier, and we'd have been subjected to it for two years longer.)

Why did the shares drop so low that year? For one thing, World War I was raging; the U.S. had entered the war in April of 1917. Shortly after the 1918 season began, the U.S. government established a "work or fight" requirement mandating that all able-bodied men had to work in the war industry or be subject to the draft, which forced baseball to stop the regular season after 140 games and play the World Series in early September. That dropped attendance by almost a third -- Game 1 drew just 19,274 in Chicago while Game 5 drew less than 16,000 to Fenway -- and sliced World Series revenue by more than half.

The owners also chose to "generously" donate 10 percent of the players' money to charity. They also decided to spread the revenue among the top four teams in each league rather than just the two World Series teams. So when the players found out during the Series that their shares were being cut by more than half, they were not pleased.

Prior to Game 5 in Boston, the two angry teams met inside Fenway Park and threatened not to play unless the league boosted the player shares. American League president Ban Johnson, reportedly already drunk early that afternoon, begged the teams to play and laid a guilt trip on them by bringing up the sacrifices of the troops overseas. When American soldiers were dying in Europe at the rate of 200 men per day, how could the players sit out over mere money (which the owners would keep)?

With the Fenway fans chanting for the teams to play and a group of wounded war vets entering the ballpark stands, the players finally relented and took the field roughly an hour after the scheduled first pitch.

According to Jerry Gutlon's book, "It Was Never About The Babe," Red Sox outfielder Harry Hooper told the fans. "We will play, not because we think we are getting a fair deal, because we are not. But we'll play for the sake of the game, for the sake of the public which has always given us its loyal support, and for the sake of the wounded soldiers and sailors who are in the grandstand waiting for us."

The Red Sox won the Series and received $1,102.51 apiece, the lowest winning share in World Series history and less than a third of what the White Sox had received after winning the previous year's championship.

And you wonder why the next year's World Series was fixed?

The Cubs, meanwhile, received a $671 loser's share in 1918. That is very low, of course; but look at it this way: It's still more than any share the Cubs have received for playing in a World Series in the past 68 years.