Rick Reichardt: The man who started the money wars in baseball

The economics of baseball is getting hard to follow: $300-million contracts for ten years to Manny Machado and Bryce Harper.

I say more power to them, and I hope they live up to the hype in San Diego and Philadelphia.  At the same time, I don't want to hear the owners whining about the business of baseball.

Big money in baseball started with Judge Seitz and the free agency opinion of 1975.  It set the table for players to negotiate after the 1976 season.  As we know, they've been negotiating ever since Dave McNally and Andy Messersmith won their "freedom".

There is another chapter in baseball history that we cannot overlook.

Rick Reichardt was born in Madison, Wisconsin on March 16, 1943.  He was a baseball star in Stevens Point High School and the University of Wisconsin.

In 1964, the Los Angeles Angels paid Rick Reichardt the biggest bonus in baseball history: $205,000!

Rick never met expectations, although he did hit the first home run in the new Anaheim Stadium in 1966.

His best season was in 1968: 21 HRs and 73 RBI.  Overall, he hit .261 with 116 HR and 445 RBI.

We remember him for one big reason.  His bonus in 1964 shook up the owners, and they created a draft.  The owners were afraid that Rick's contract would create the money battles that made Joe Namath a Jet in the AFL rather than a Lion in the NFL.

So the major league owners created the draft, hoping to keep young stars like Rick under control rather than going for the big money.

As a kid arriving in Wisconsin around that time, I heard a lot about Rick and his baseball exploits.  Everyone was following his career and dreaming of signing a big contract like Rick someday.

Well, Rick never made it big, but he sure signed a big contract back then.  I wonder what he thinks of all this looking out the window and watching snowflakes in Wisconsin.

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