The MLB Players Association is inclusive — except
when it comes to its retired persons of color
by Doug Gladstone — @GLADSTONEWRITER
There are 500 retired baseball players who are currently being shafted by Major League Baseball (MLB). Panama City, Panama’s Dave Roberts is one of them.
The 84-year-old Mr. Roberts played for the Houston Colt 45s in 1962 and 1964 then played for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1966 and Overall, in 91 career games, Mr. Roberts came to the plate 194 times and collected 38 hits, including eight doubles, one triple and two home runs. He scored 15 runs and drove in an additional 17.
What he doesn’t have is an MLB pension.
Mr. Roberts — who reportedly was a teammate of Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson in Double A ball when he was a member of the Baltimore Orioles organization playing for the San Antonio Missions in the Texas League in 1955 — has seen his fair share of discrimination. According to a published account, Roberts was demoted to Single A ball in 1957 when another Texas League team refused to play against any team with black players.
Roberts doesn’t receive a traditional pension from MLB because the rules for receiving MLB pensions changed in 1980. Roberts and the other men do not get pensions because they didn’t accrue four years of service credit. That was what ballplayers who played between 1947 – 1979 needed to be eligible for the pension plan.
Instead, they all receive nonqualified retirement payments based on a complicated formula that had to have been calculated by an actuary.
In brief, for every quarter of service a man had accrued, he’d get $625. Four quarters (one year) totaled $2,500. Sixteen quarters (four years) amounts to the maximum, $10,000.
Meanwhile, a vested retiree can earn a pension of as much as $210,000, according to the IRS. Even the minimum pension for 43 game days of credit after 1980 is a reported $34,000.
The union representing the current players, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), doesn’t have to be their legal advocates, the league doesn’t have to negotiate about this matter and the alumni association is too busy putting on golf outings. What’s more, the payment cannot be passed on to a surviving spouse or designated beneficiary. So none of Mr. Roberts’s loved ones will receive that payment when he dies. These men are also not eligible to be covered under the league’s health coverage plan.
To date, the MLBPA has been loathe to divvy up anymore of the collective pie. Even though Forbes recently reported that the current players’ pension and welfare fund is valued at $2.7 billion, MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark has never commented about these non-vested retirees, many of whom are filing for bankruptcy at advanced ages, having banks foreclose on their homes and are so sickly and poor that they cannot afford adequate health care coverage.
What’s particularly disturbing is that Mr. Clark received the Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Negro Leagues Museum in 2016. Yet is he trying to do anything for Aaron Pointer? Or Wayne Cage, of the Cleveland Indians? Or Tom Murphy, who played for the New York Mets? Or Cuban-American Cuno Barragan, who played for the Cubs?
Or Mr. Roberts?
Although MLB, which has launched youth programs that include Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, has been praised for its increases in minority hiring, Clark told the Associated Press last year the union would like to see opportunities expanded to include senior club administration.
That’s fine, Mr. Clark. I also understand in December 2016, MLBPA and MLB made a $30 million commitment to help grow the game through the MLBPA-MLB Youth Development Foundation.
But what about the retirees who grew the game? Specifically, all the retired persons of color. Are you saying they didn’t grow the game? You know, the same men like Pointer and Murphy and Cage and Barragan and Roberts who stood on picket lines and endured labor stoppages and went without paychecks so Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen could command a five-year $85 million contract last year?
Seems a little hypocritical to receive an award named to honor arguably the greatest pioneer in race relations this country has ever known, than hose a man like Roberts.
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