Lost in Inflation

In today’s New York Times, Tyler Kepner writes a feel-good story about Jim Gentile, the former Baltimore Orioles slugger who collected on a $5,000 bonus — after a  49-year wait. Gentile, now 76, had a career-year in 1961 when hit .302 with 46 homers (including a then-AL record 5 grand slams) and 141 RBI’s. Few people took note of his accomplishments outside of Baltimore as Roger Maris was eclipsing Babe Ruth’s single season home run record.   Gentile got  a raise for his efforts the next year, but was told by Orioles GM Lee McPhail that he would have earned a $5,000 bonus had he led the AL in RBI’s. Maris was one better that year with 142 to go along with his 61 home runs.

Well, recent research by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) revealed that Maris was given one too many RBI’s in 1961. He was erroneously credited with an RBI on July 5. Therefore, the record books now show Maris and Gentile tied for the league lead at 141.  The Orioles held up their end of the deal by awarding Gentile a $5,000 check prior to their game at Camden Yards on Friday night. And to add  a little sweetener to this happy ending, the check was presented by McPhail’s son Andy, now the Orioles president of baseball operations.

A nice ray of sunshine in what has been a very cloudy season, not to mention decade, for the Orioles. Or is it? If the Orioles really want to do right by Gentile, they would pay him the bonus, adjusted for inflation. Back in ’61, $5,000 was a nice pot of money, even for an All-Star first baseman. So, the proper thing to do would be to pay Gentile his bonus in 2010 dollars — $35,462 (according to my calculations on  The Inflation Calendar).  That’s probably less than it would cost to refurnish a  suite at Camden Yards. 

I recommend you pay up, Mr. Angelos.

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