This Date In Baseball History- December 16, 1974. Oakland A’s star pitcher Jim ‘Catfish’ Hunter is declared a free-agent.
It all started back in February 1974 when the Oakland A’s and their star pitcher Catfish Hunter agreed on a two year, $200,000 contract with a clause stipulating that $50,000 payments be made to a life insurance annuity of his choosing each season. The A’s Owner Charles Finley refused to make the payment after discovering he had to pay $25,000 in taxes which was due immediately. Hunter filed a breach of contract dispute and it went before an arbitration hearing on November 26, 1974. On December 16, arbitrator Peter Seitz decided the case in favor of Hunter making him a free agent.
23 of the 24 teams courted Hunter- only the San Francisco Giants failed to make him an offer. In the end he signed a contract with the New York Yankees making him the highest paid pitcher in baseball history at that time- 5 years $3.5 million. In signing with the Yankees he turned down higher offers from San Diego and Kansas City.