“The life of a Baseball Player is Extremely Unsatisfactory”

30 Apr

After more than two decades covering baseball, Hugh Fullerton told fathers “Don’t send your boy into professional baseball.”  In response to a letter he said he received seeking his advice from a father who said his 19-year-old son wanted to play pro ball, Fullerton said in The Chicago Herald-Examiner  in 1915:

Hugh Fullerton

Hugh Fullerton

“The life of a baseball player is extremely unsatisfactory.  I have lived with them for more than 20 years and have found few good men in the profession who would not have been better off in any other.

“Your boy is at the age when the majority come into the upper leagues.  Usually they are swell headed because they have been applauded and cheered as the best in their own class.  Among the veteran ballplayers they are looked upon with scorn, chiefly through this tendency to freshness.  If they are sensitive or lack determination they are broken in spirit and courage right at the start.

“I made a list a few years ago of nearly 1000 players—and about 98 out of each 100 failed on the first trial to make good.  The great majority are doomed to failure.  Those who succeed finally are destined to temporary failure.  I have seen thousands broken in spirit, ruined entirely by this.

“The life is full of temptations, chief of which are women and drink.  Swarms of fans urge them to drink, seek to buy them wine when they succeed, and if they fail they are apt to drink as a solace.

"Why Ballplayers Fail" The illustration that accompanied Fullerton's column

“Why Ballplayers Fail”
The illustration that accompanied Fullerton’s column

“Financially, about one in 40 succeeds moderately and one in a thousand gets rich.  The average earnings of 500 players for a ten-year period will not exceed $1000 a year.  The average playing life of a man is about seven years.

“Even the high-priced players complain of the difficulty of saving.  The constant drain of expenses is much higher than one would think.  A semi-public man must spend more than a private individual.

“A 3,000-a-year man has a hard time saving $500 a year.  I know men who have had salaries of from $3,500 to $7,500 for seven or eight years who have only a few thousand laid by.

“The worst feature, however, is that your boy, starting at 19, probably would be done when he was 32 or 33—done and out of employment, with expensive tastes, expensive acquaintances, no knowledge of any trade or business and really just where he is now.  He probably would be worth $20 a week.

“His one chance is that he has, during his baseball career, formed the friendship with some wealthy or prominent man who can place him in a ‘soft’ job.  To me this seems undesirable.”

Within days Fullerton was again writing columns about the joys of the drunken exploits of players like Elmer Foster.

7 Responses to ““The life of a Baseball Player is Extremely Unsatisfactory””


  1. Bugs Versus Rube | Baseball History Daily - June 9, 2014

    […] Hugh Fullerton said of his death: […]

  2. “Baseball is now Played by certain Mathematical rules and Regulations” | Baseball History Daily - July 16, 2014

    […] Chicago Tribune’s Hugh Fullerton concluded in 1906 that base running had “in a sense, become a lost […]

  3. “It is Feared that the Cares of his Office are making an old man out of Tim” | Baseball History Daily - August 18, 2014

    […] in poor health since 1912, died in 1915.  Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Examiner said of his passing at age […]

  4. Bad Bill Eagan | Baseball History Daily - October 6, 2014

    […] years later Eagan joined ‘Cap’ Anson’s Chicago Colts.  Hugh Fullerton  told the story of how he wore out his welcome there after just six […]

  5. “He’s a Loafer and a Drinker” | Baseball History Daily - December 3, 2014

    […] Lange and Elmer Foster were likely the two favorite subjects of sportswriter Hugh Fullerton, who continued to write about both long after their careers were over. Another favorite subject was […]

  6. “Walsh? Ed Walsh? Who’s he?” | Baseball History Daily - March 16, 2015

    […] after that paper had again begun publishing full-sizes editions in mid-May, sportswriter Hugh Fullerton was not surprised that less baseball news resulted in smaller crowds at the […]

  7. Miller Huggins | Baseball History Daily - March 27, 2015

    […] 1911, he told Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Record-Herald about “The greatest play,” he had seen during his […]

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