When the Los Angeles Dodgers made MLB history on Dec. 12, 1998, when they signed Kevin Brown to a seven-year, $105 million contract. The watershed moment made Brown the first $100 million player in the sport.
The four-time All-Star was coming off an 18-win season and consecutive trips to the World Series appearances with the Florida Marlins and San Diego Padres. Brown’s deal with the Dodgers included a $5 million signing bonus, no-trade clause and 12 chartered flights for his wife and children from Georgia to Los Angeles each year.
That last detail to accommodate Brown’s earned the Dodgers plenty of scrutiny as they’d already rankled rival clubs by extending a nine-figure contract to a 33-year-old pitcher; Brown turned 34 years old in March of the first year of the deal.
Malone would later argue the $100 million threshold was an arbitrary ceiling and he was ahead of his contemporaries. Of course, lucrative contracts of this nature have now become commonplace for the sport’s top players.
“If other teams had the resources, they’d have made the deal I made. A bunch of people came up to me after the deal and said ‘I would have done the same thing,’” Malone recalled.
Since becoming a full-time member of the Texas Rangers rotation in 1989, Brown made a minimum of 25 starts in every season before signing with the Dodgers. He kept that streak alive through the first two years in L.A.
Brown went 18-9 with five complete games, a 3.00 ERA and 221 strikeouts in 252.1 innings across 35 starts in 1999. The following season he completed a fifth consecutive year with at least 200 innings pitched, made 33 starts and led the NL with a 2.58 ERA.
However, injuries then began to derail his career. Brown started a combined 29 games from 2001-2002, but bounced back to go 14-9 with a 2.39 ERA and 185 strikeouts over 32 outings in 2003.
Nevertheless, he was traded to the New York Yankees in exchange for Jeff Weaver, Yhency Brazoban, Brandon Weeden and cash considerations exactly five years after signing with the Dodgers.
Brown spent the final two seasons of his 19-year career with New York before retiring. During his time with the Dodgers, Brown went 58-32 with a 2.83 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, and was twice selected to the All-Star Game.