How Yogi Berra changed baseball

Baseball legend Yogi Berra dies at 90
Baseball legend Yogi Berra dies at 90

Yogi Berra was one of the greatest baseball players ever -- and definitely the most quotable. But perhaps his greatest impact on sports came when he became the first player to hire an agent.

When a player reaches a deal on a new multi-million dollar contract, that goes back to Yogi.

And when you see your favorite athlete in a dozen different commercials, that goes back to Yogi, too.

Yogi became the first player to use an agent to negotiate endorsement deals very much by chance.

One day in the early 1950's the Yankees traveling secretary Frank Scott was at Yogi Berra's house and didn't have his watch.

Yogi offered him one from a drawer full of watches. When Scott asked him why he had so many watches, Yogi explained that's what he was always given for making public appearances. That's when Scott realized someone should negotiate on behalf of athletes to get them the money they deserved.

yogi berra agent
Willie Mays, left, Yogi Berra, right and the man who was their agent, Frank Scott, center.

Berra ended up becoming a well-known spokesman, perhaps most famously for Yoo Hoo chocolate drink. Frank went on to become an agent for other ballplayers such as Mickey Mantle Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, and later expanded into other sports to represent football's Frank Gifford.

Related: Yogi Berra dies at 90

Athletes soon learned that endorsement deals could be worth more than what they were paid to play. In Scott's obituary in 1998, the New York Times reported that by 1956 Scott had secured $70,000 in endorsements for Mantle when the Yankees were paying him only $30,000.

Eventually endorsement money collected by athletes soared into tens of millions for top stars. Nike (NKE) alone has committed to pay athletes, teams and leagues $6.2 billion in endorsement deals.

Agents didn't start negotiating sports contracts until the late 1960s. The combined efforts of agents and players' unions helped to win huge pay raises for players. Today, the major league minimum salary $507,500. Berra's top salary was $65,000 in 1957, according to Baseball-Refence.com. Adjusted for inflation, that's only only slightly more than the current league minimum.

Berra's playing career ended before the age of big contracts, but he had a prolific endorsement career for decades after that thanks to his wit and popularity. He appeared in spots for Miller Lite, Pringles, Aflac and Visa (V).

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