Darren Rovell has a piece about Ken Griffey’s new contract containing a clause that gives him a substantial bonus for an unspecfied attendance bump in Seattle this year. More interesting was the rundown of past clauses:
In 1997, the St. Louis Cardinals drew 2.63 million fans. So when they signed Mark McGwire, they agreed to give him $1 per for each fan that entered Busch Stadium beyond 2.75 million. McGwire earned $445,691 extra when the home run race of 1998 brought in a then team record 3.19 million fans that season.
In 2002, Kenny Lofton had an attendance clause in his contract that stated that if the White Sox went above a certain attendance number, he’d earn $1.4 million. Lofton was later traded to the Giants and it was eventually negated.
In 2004, Roger Clemens took a hometown discount and agreed to a $5 million deal with the Houston Astros that included attendance incentives. He reportedly earned $3 million from the attendance bump that year.
It’s always helpful to remember that the scariest of the steroid bogeymen put so many butts in the seats that their teams saw fit to pay them millions on top of their already generous salaries for the effort. It wasn’t just ballplayers who benefitted from the steroid era, folks. Teams got rich, interest was stoked, and, I suspect anyway, newspapers were sold. Any lamentation of the era that doesn’t recognize that it is not worthy of serious consideration.
What’s the deal with Kenny Lofton’s clause? Has anyone ever thought of him as a gate attraction? Isn’t such a clause in his contract akin to John Van Benschoten getting a Cy Young bonus or Otis Nixon getting one for being named People’s Sexiest Man Alive? Have you ever dropped what you’re doing to go to a game because Kenny Lofton was involved? Heck, he’s played for just about every team by now, so I suspect everyone who has ever wanted to see Lofton play already has.
And this isn’t even the first strange Kenny Lofton sighting for me this week. In the lobby of the state office tower in which I work is a display of high schoolers’ artwork honoring Black History Month. Among the paintings and sketches are portraits of Martin Luther King, Jr., depictions of the March on Selma, and many other important figures and inspiring moments in Black history. Included among them — for reasons that are totally unclear — is a pencil sketch of Kenny Lofton. For a minute I thought it was just a poor effort at Jackie Robinson, but nope, it’s even labeled “Kenny Lofton.” Far be it from me to pass judgment on who is and who isn’t an important figure in Black history, but I suspect that not many who are experts in the field include him in the pantheon.