On Feb. 19, 1983, Fernando Valenzuela became the first player to be awarded a $1 million salary through the arbitration process with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Salary arbitration at the time was still fairly new to the league. It was first agreed to be added to the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in 1972 after players went on strike. The following season, owners locked out the players over the issue.
They ultimately agreed arbitration would begin after a player was in the league for two consecutive seasons.
Valenzuela pitched his first two full seasons from 1981-82, so he then became arbitration eligible heading into the 1983 campaign.
The southpaw had already established himself as one of MLB’s premiere pitchers, posting ERAs of 2.48 and 2.87 with nearly 500 innings pitched across the two seasons and starting what became known as “Fernandomania.”
Valenzuela also was named the National League Cy Young Award winner in 1981, along with the NL’s Rookie of the Year, so he was due for a significant raise.
The $1 million Valenzuela received was almost double the average player salary of $520,839 during the 1983 season, and more than 28 times the minimum salary of $35,000.
During the 1983 season, Valenzuela ended up taking a step back from his previous two years as he pitched to a 3.75 ERA, but he still managed to throw 257 innings over 35 starts. Valenzuela also won the Silver Slugger Award and made the All-Star Game for a third consecutive season.
He pitched for the Dodgers for another seven seasons after 1983, before bouncing around the league for his final six years before retiring.
Dodgers mourn death of Don Newcombe
Also on this day in 2019, the Dodgers announced Don Newcombe passed away after a lengthy illness at the age of 92.
“Don Newcombe’s presence and life established him as a role model for Major Leaguers across the country,” Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten said in a statement at the time.
“He was a constant presence at Dodger Stadium and players always gravitated to him for his endless advice and leadership. The Dodgers meant everything to him and we are all fortunate he was a part of our lives.”
Newcombe was one of the organization’s final links to Brooklyn, playing with the likes of Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella among the first African-American players in MLB history.
In a total of seven and a half seasons with the Dodgers organization, Newcombe won the Rookie of the Year in 1949, Cy Young and MVP in 1956 and appeared in four All-Star games.
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