Bonus Babies

What is a bonus baby in Major League Baseball?

Bonus babies were amateur baseball players who received a signing bonus in excess of $4,000 and went straight to the Major Leagues between the years 1947 and 1965.

How did Major League Baseball end up with bonus babies?

Major League Baseball teams aggressively bid against each other for young prospects during the late 1930s and early 1940s, a practice that resumed after World War II ended.

Signing bonuses literally skyrocketed during this period and the wealthiest teams were often able to sign many of the best players, sometimes just to stash them in their farm systems - a rule was put into place to stop these franchises (Cardinals, Dodgers, Red Sox and Yankees) and ultimately, limit labor costs.

The Bonus Rule:

Instituted by Major League Baseball in 1947, The Bonus Rule prevented baseball teams from assigning certain players to farm clubs. The rule stipulated that when a Major League Baseball team signed a player to a contract in excess of $4,000, the team was required to keep that player on the 25-man roster for two full-seasons.

Any team that failed to comply with The Bonus Rule lost the rights to that player's contract, exposing them to the waiver wire. If the player did remain with the team for a full two seasons, the team could then send that player down to their farm system without repercussions. The rule was abolished in 1965, after the amateur free agent draft was introduced.

Who were the bonus babies?

A complete list of bonus babies appears below, in order by their Major League debut date, with bonus amounts, team data (amateur / big league), and links to their online baseball cards.

Baseball Almanac Top Quote

" Bonus Baby : A free-agent player signed under the bonus rule of 1953-1957. Such players were usually 18 or 19 years old, so full of talent and promise that they overshadowed their high school or college teammates and had professional teams scrambling to sign them; however, many bonus babies had failed careers as they were not ready for baseball at the major-league level and their talent rusted in idleness on the bench" - Author Paul Dickson in The Dickson Baseball Dictionary (W. W. Norton & Company, 06/13/2011, Page 125)

Bonus Babies

Major League Baseball Bonus Babies

Johnny Antonelli $65,000 LHP Jefferson High School Milwaukee Braves (1) 07-04-1948
Johnny O'Brien $40,000 2B Seattle University Pittsburgh Pirates (1) 04-19-1953
Billy Consolo $65,000 SS Dorsey High School Boston Red Sox (1) 04-20-1953
Eddie O'Brien $40,000 SS St. Mary's High School Pittsburgh Pirates (2) 04-25-1953
Vic Janowicz $25,000 CA Ohio State University Pittsburgh Pirates (3) 05-31-1953
Al Kaline $35,000 OF Southern High School Detroit Tigers (1) 06-25-1953
Bob Miller $60,000 LHP Morton High School Detroit Tigers (2) 06-25-1953
Dick Schofield $40,000 SS Springfield High School St. Louis Cardinals (1) 07-03-1953
Joey Jay $40,000 RHP Middletown High School Milwaukee Braves (2) 07-21-1953
Mel Roach $45,000 IF University of Virginia Milwaukee Braves (3) 07-31-1953
Nick Koback $20,000 CA Hartford High School Pittsburgh Pirates (4) 07-29-1953
Tom Qualters $40,000 RHP McKeesport High School Philadelphia Phillies (1) 09-13-1953
Reno Bertoia $23,000 3B Assumption High School Detroit Tigers (3) 09-22-1953
Frank Leja $40,000 1B Holyoke High School New York Yankees (1) 05-01-1954
Joey Amalfitano $40,000 2B Loyola College New York Giants (1) 05-02-1954
Ron Jackson $10,000 1B Western Michigan College Chicago White Sox (1) 06-15-1954
Billy O'Dell $24,000 LHP Clemson Agricultural College Baltimore Orioles (1) 06-20-1954
Harmon Killebrew $30,000 1B Payette High School Washington Senators (1) 06-23-1954
Laurin Pepper $20,000 RHP Mississippi Southern College Pittsburgh Pirates (5) 07-04-1954
Paul Giel $60,000 RHP University of Minnesota New York Giants (2) 07-10-1954
Jim Pyburn $50,000 OF Alabama Polytechnic Institute Baltimore Orioles (2) 04-17-1955
Tom Carroll $30,000 IF University of Notre Dame New York Yankees (2) 05-07-1955
John Edelman $20,000 RHP West Chester Normal School Milwaukee Braves (4) 06-02-1955
Clete Boyer $35,000 3B Alba High School Kansas City Athletics (1) 06-05-1955
Wayne Causey $32,000 IF Neville High School Baltimore Orioles (3) 06-05-1955
Jerry Schoonmaker $30,000 OF University of Missouri Washington Senators (2) 06-11-1955
Al Silvera $20,000 OF University of Southern California Cincinnati Redlegs (1) 06-12-1955
Tom Gastall $30,000 CA Boston University Baltimore Orioles (4) 06-21-1955
Tex Nelson $40,000 OF Adamson High School Baltimore Orioles (5) 06-22-1955
Jim Small $30,000 OF Bellarmine Prep High School Detroit Tigers (4) 06-22-1955
Sandy Koufax $24,000 LHP University of Cincinnati Brooklyn Dodgers (1) 06-24-1955
Paul Martin $20,000 RHP Marion High School Pittsburgh Pirates (6) 07-02-1955
Kenny Kuhn $50,000 IF Louisville Male High School Cleveland Indians (1) 07-07-1955
Don Kaiser $27,000 RHP East Central State College Chicago Cubs (1) 07-20-1955
Jim Pagliaroni $85,000 CA Woodrow Wilson High School Boston Red Sox (2) 08-13-1955
Lindy McDaniel $50,000 RHP University of Oklahoma St. Louis Cardinals (2) 09-02-1955
Red Swanson $20,000 RHP Louisiana State University Pittsburgh Pirates (7) 09-10-1955
Bob Powell $36,000 PR Michigan State College Chicago White Sox (2) 09-16-1955
Jim Brady $37,000 LHP University of Notre Dame Detroit Tigers (5) 05-12-1956
Mack Burk $40,000 CA University of Texas Philadelphia Phillies (2) 05-25-1956
Jerry Kindall $50,000 IF University of Minnesota Chicago Cubs (2) 07-01-1956
Moe Drabowsky $75,000 RHP Trinity College Chicago Cubs (3) 08-07-1956
Mike McCormick $50,000 LHP Mark Keppel High School New York Giants (3) 09-03-1956
Jim Derrington $78,000 LHP South Gate High School Chicago White Sox (3) 09-30-1956
Don Pavletich $30,000 1B/CA Hale High School Cincinnati Redlegs (2) 04-20-1957
Buddy Pritchard $48,000 SS University of Southern California Pittsburgh Pirates (8) 04-21-1957
Bobby Henrich $25,000 SS Compton High School Cincinnati Redlegs (3) 05-03-1957
Hawk Taylor $119,000 CA Metropolis High School Milwaukee Braves (5) 06-09-1957
Von McDaniel $50,000 RHP Arnett High School St. Louis Cardinals (3) 06-13-1957
John DeMerit $100,000 OF University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Braves (6) 06-18-1957
Steve Boros $25,000 3B University of Michigan Detroit Tigers (6) 06-19-1957
Bob Miller $25,000 RHP Beaumont High School St. Louis Cardinals (4) 06-26-1957
Frank Zupo $50,000 CA Sacred Heart Prep High School Baltimore Orioles (6) 07-01-1957
Jerry Walker $20,000 RHP Byng High School Baltimore Orioles (7) 07-06-1957
Dave Hill $30,000 LHP Northwestern University Kansas City Athletics (2) 08-22-1957
Jay Hook $65,000 RHP Northwestern University Cincinnati Redlegs (4) 09-03-1957
Ralph Lumenti $35,000 LHP University of Massachusetts Washington Senators (3) 09-07-1957
George Thomas $25,000 OF University of Minnesota Detroit Tigers (7) 09-11-1957
Johnny Romano $15,000 CA Demherst High School Chicago White Sox (4) 09-12-1958
Bob Bailey $175,000 3B Woodrow Wilson High School Pittsburgh Pirates (9) 09-14-1962
Catfish Hunter $75,000 RHP Perquimans High School Oakland Athletics (3) 05-13-1965
Bonus Babies | Research by Baseball Almanac
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baseball almanac fast facts

Did you know that four bonus babies -- Al Kaline , Harmon Killebrew , Sandy Koufax , Catfish Hunter -- made it to the National Baseball Hall of Fame? Too easy? Which one of those four Hall of Fame bonus babies was sent down to the minor leagues at one point during their career? [ Answer ]

The amateur draft ended the bonus baby era, but some players were still able to (a) be drafted, and (b) go straight to the majors .

Bonus Babies Al Kaline and Bob Miller

The Detroit Free Press | June 26, 1953 | Page 23

On June 25, 1953 , the Tigers had two bonus babies debut in the same game at the same time, centerfielder Al Kaline & relief pitcher Bob Miller !

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