The New York Yankees front office was faced with some problems following the team’s outstanding 1937 season in which they won the pennant by 13 games and defeated the New York Giants in the World Series.

Joe DiMaggio received $15,000 in 1937 and intimated that $25,000 would not be sufficient in 1938. Of course, the reality of the situation was that Joe had only two choices—play for the Yankees or don’t play.  Joe didn’t have the option of becoming a free agent.

There was much more.

Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing became holdouts.  Ruffing, the right-handed ace of the pitching staff, didn’t sign until May.  Interestingly, he had his best season in 1937, going 20-7 with a 2.98 ERA.

Gehrig signed for $36,000 once he realized that the Yankees were willing to let him miss the beginning of the season and risk ending his endurance streak of consecutive games played. The streak was more important to Gehrig than money, which was not true for the Yankees.

How do the Steinbrenner brothers, Randy Levine, and Brian Cashman feel about losing Derek Jeter?  The names have changed (Ed Barrow, George Weiss, Mike Burke, George Steinbrenner, and Mr. Steinbrenner’s sons), but with the possible exception of Mr. Steinbrenner, the philosophy remains the same.  

Derek Jeter has been compared to the greatest of the Yankees.  Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Mantle all experienced the power of ownership.  

It must be stated that the Yankees’ offer of $15 million a year for three years to Jeter is fair, which makes the Jeter case different from those of the others.  The Yankees are willing to let Jeter walk, just as the Yankees were willing to let Gehrig’s consecutive games played streak end.

Is Jeter willing to walk?

In the middle of January, 1937, during the week that the Yankees were going to mail contracts to players, DiMaggio visited New York to see his friend, boxer Jim Braddock, fight Tommy Farr.  Joe told reporters that he hoped to talk to the Yankees and settle the salary matter quickly.

“While I naturally have an idea what I’m worth, I don’t think it’s up to me to say anything about that now. I’d rather wait until the club made its offer.”

A day later, Yankees general manager Ed Barrow announced that he would not meet with players before contracts had been mailed, but the day after they had been mailed, Barrow invited DiMaggio to a conference that owner Colonel Ruppert would attend.

It was believed that DiMaggio was offered $15,000, which was the salary he had earned the previous season and would be a starting point for negotiations.

Baseball players didn’t have agents in DiMaggio’s era, but they sometimes had help in negotiations. Joe was a good friend not only of Jim Braddock—he was a good friend of Braddock’s manager, Joe Gould.

It was rumored that Gould coached DiMaggio in setting his demands and that $30,000 would be DiMaggio’s rock bottom price. Gould, of course, vehemently denied any involvement is DiMaggio’s financial affairs.

After making him wait for 45 minutes, Ruppert appeared at the conference and offered Joe $25,000, which he immediately refused.

When spring training opened on February 28, DiMaggio was in San Francisco, awaiting developments on his salary. He was still asking for $40,000 but insiders indicated that he would settle for $30,000. Ruppert was adamant that DiMaggio accept $25,000.

On March 12, DiMaggio was quoted as saying, “I suppose it will wind up with the ballplayer signing the contract, as he usually does.” Ruppert responded by calling DiMaggio “…an ungrateful young man who is very unfair to his teammates.”

On April 7, Ruppert cut off negotiations, telling DiMaggio to either take or leave the $25,000 offer. Myril Hoag was announced as the Yankees’ center fielder.

On April 18, the St. Louis Browns offered the Yankees $150,000 for DiMaggio, which the Yankees refused. On April 21, DiMaggio signed for $25,000, less the money he lost for not reporting on time.

Ruppert said, “I hope the young man has learned his lesson.”  What an arrogant statement.

DiMaggio said that he hoped to have such a great season that “there won’t be any chance of an argument over salary next year.”


 Dawson, James P. “Many Holdouts Left Behind as Yanks Start for Florida.” New York Times. 27 February 1938, p. 72.

 Drebinger, John. “Holdout War Brewing for Yanks as DiMaggio Ponders His Worth. New York Times. 7 January 1938, p. 22.

 Drebinger, John. “DiMaggio Wants Big Increase but Withholds Demands Until Yanks Make Offer.” New York Times. 18 January 1938, p.17

 Drebinger, John. “Ruppert’s Conference With DiMaggio On Star’s Contract Ends in Stalemate.” New York Times. 22 January 1938, p.9.

 Effratt, Louis. “Ruppert Assails DiMaggio’s Stand.” New York Times. 14 March 1938, p. 20.

 “DiMaggio Awaits Yankee Contract; Conference Expected Later if Terms to be Sent This Week Fail to Please Him.” New York Times. 19 January 1938, p. 17.

    * “End of Yankee Holdout Suggested by DiMaggio.” New York Times. 12 March 1938, p. 23.
 “Ruppert Unmoved by DiMaggio Stand” New York Times. 8 April 1938, p. 23.

 Browns Bid for DiMaggio but Yankees Refuse $150,000 for Hold Out.” New York Times. 19 April 1938, p. 25.

 * “DiMaggio Agrees to $25,000 Terms; Ruppert Wins Salary Battle; Pay Star When Joe Shows He is Ready to Play.” New York Times. 21 April 1938, p.23.

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