In 1915, The Chicago Eagle reported on the difficulty the government was having “getting at the facts,” in order to collect income taxes from ballplayers after the passage of the 16th Amendment two years earlier. But the paper predicted that players in the three major leagues “will pay into the internal revenue department something like $5,000 in income tax.” Five thousand dollars total.
“But for the fact that 50 per cent of the players in the American, National and Federal leagues are married and thereby permitted to claim an exemption of $4,000 in salary, the sum exacted by the government would be considerably greater.”
The Eagle said there were approximately 300 players in the three leagues who earned more than $3000 per season and were subject to pay income tax, but half of those were exempt because they were married and could claim an exemption up to $4,000.
“(T)here are about 200 who earn more than $4,000. There are close to 100 who draw more than $5,000 and 50 whose contracts call for amounts ranging between $6,000 and $10,000. There are less than a dozen who make more than that. The notable ones are Eddie Collins, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Walter Johnson and a few managers. (John) McGraw is reputed to make $25,000 in salary.”
Tris Speaker was “the hardest hit” bachelor. At a salary of $15,000 Speaker was taxed on $12,000 and paid income taxes for the year totaling $120.
Frank “Home Run” Baker of the Philadelphia athletics, who earned between $8,000 and $9,000, and was sitting out the 1915 season in a salary dispute said regarding his teammate Eddie Collins, who earned $15,000:
“Still, if they raise mine up to that of Eddie Collins I’ll be perfectly willing to split with Uncle Sam.”