Just what would the 1927 Yankees be worth in today's economic environments? This is a question
that Dr. Lawrence Hadley and Elizabeth Gustafson, two University of Dayton economics
professors, attempted to answer in a paper entitled "The Most Expensive Baseball Teams of All
Time" in September 1996.
His basic premise was: "If all teams were to hire players under the current labor market conditions, which team would have the highest payroll?" The paper goes on to state that "In general, these assumptions amount to the counter-factual assumption that the players of the 1927 Yankees could be transformed forward to 1993 via a time machine."
The average payroll in 1993 for a major league team was just about $32 million. The average of the 30 teams studied was $36.3 million. To quote Dr. Hadley, "On the average, the great teams of the past appear to be only one superstar ahead of a typical 1993 team. It's not true these great teams were stocked with all Hall of Famers."
As measured in 1993 dollars, Dr. Hadley used a statistical computer model to attempt to predict the payrolls of 30 of baseball's most successful teams in history. The model takes into account each player's performance, years of service, and eligibility for free agency and arbitration.
The 1927 Yankees, generally and deservedly so, are acknowledged as the greatest team of all time. They would have had an estimated payroll of $41,375,559. Of the 30 teams studied, this would rank them seventh.
Babe Ruth would have been paid $16 million, and Lou Gehrig would have been paid $1.2 million. At the time, Ruth was the greatest attraction on earth, the greatest player of all time, and was entering his 14th season. By contrast, Lou Gehrig had approximately two years of service.
The results: "Payroll strategies of all great teams - both reserve era and free agent era - are similiar. They have a core of superstars in their prime. These stars are supported by a mix of players including quality starting pitchers and everyday players, over-the-hill veterans, and young prospects." Extremely accurate for the actual 1927 Yankees.
The highest projected payroll would have been the 1938 Yankees with $49.9 million; of which Lou Gehrig would have received $12.7 million.
Dr. Hadley's published list of projected salaries for the 1927 Yankees:
Babe Ruth, $16,008,080
Bob Meusel, $5,110,381
Urban Shocker, $3,193,636
Dutch Ruether, $2,588,222
Waite Hoyt, $2,423,513
Herb Pennock, $2,246,567
Joe Dugan, $1,526,717
Lou Gehrig, $1,242,039
Earle Combs, $1,052,640
Pat Collins, $873,919
Tony Lazzeri, $795,789
Mark Koenig $419,910