Professional Baseball

Chief curator Daniel Piazza shares intimate knowledge, little-known facts and secrets about the stories told in “Baseball: America’s Home Run,” highlighting some of the spectacular objects on display, including discussions with key lenders to the exhibition on artifacts never-before displayed for pubic view.

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I'm Dan Piazza, curator of the National Postal Museum exhibition, Baseball: America's Home Run, on view until January 2025.

Join me for an inside look at some of the most exciting objects from this blockbuster show that explores America's national pastime through stamps, mail and memorabilia.

The 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings where the first team composed of salaried players whose contracts could be sold or traded by team owners.

Professional baseball brought formal contracts and with them, the infamous reserve clause that prevented players from switching teams when their contract expired.

Let's take a closer look.

The ten members of the 1869 Red Stockings team were paid an average salary of  930 dollars for the season, or the equivalent  of about 150,000 dollars in today's money.

The 1969 centennial of professional baseball was marked with a commemorative postage stamp.

Like the 1939 baseball stamp, the 1969 issue commemorated a somewhat dubious anniversary.

The Red Stockings were only the first openly professional ball players.

Some baseballers had been paid for years through secret cash deals and no-show jobs for which little or no actual work was required.

This 1941 uniform players contract for Joe DiMaggio is from the year of his famous 56-game hitting streak, a Major League Baseball record that has never been broken.

DiMaggio made 30,000 dollars for the season or about 1.1 million in today's money.

The hated reserve clause which was a perpetual non-compete provision is contained in a section titled renewal.

Its legality was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1972 but it was finally abolished by agreement between the players and owners in 1975.

Since that time players have been considered  free agents once their contracts are up.

For more on the intersection of postal and baseball history visit the National Postal Museum exhibition, Baseball: America's Home Run online at

Baseball: America’s Home Run