Union Should Help Veteran Players Without Pensions, Not Rookies With No Experience
ALSO: TEAMS SHOULD PICK BEST CANDIDATES FOR RADIO/TV JOBS
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Did you know…
Hall of Famers have been traded for each other multiple times but only once have four of them changed teams in one deal: Jack Chesbro and Fred Clarke, along with George Fox, Art Madison, John O’Brien, and cash were traded for Fred Clarke, Rube Waddell, Bert Cunningham, Mike Kelley, Tacks Latimer, Tommy Leach, Tom Messitt, Deacon Phillippe, Claude Ritchey, Jack Wadsworth, and Chief Zimmer.
Jimmie Foxx was feared not only because of his bat but because of his size. Fellow Hall of Famer Lefty Gomez, a Foxx contemporary, once said of Double-X, “Jimmie Foxx wasn’t scouted – he was trapped.”
Incoming Hall of Famer David Ortiz was the first man to hit two walkoff homers in the same postseason (2004) . . .
Ortiz tops the DH record book in games, at-bats, hits, runs, doubles, home runs, RBI, extra-base hits, total bases, walks, and intentional bases on balls . . .
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Players of Yesterday Need More Help Than Players of Tomorrow
By Dan Schlossberg
Mike Trout may be the best baseball player on the planet but he won’t win any plaudits for economics. Not from this columnist anyway.
Trout, who has three Most Valuable Player trophies on his shelf, Tweeted this week that the union owes it to “the next generation” of players to take care of them in the new Basic Agreement between labor and management.
What Trout and his colleagues fail to mention are the hundreds of people who actually played in the majors but got only a pittance of a pension – or less.
An expert on the subject is Douglas Gladstone, author of A Bitter Cup of Coffee: How MLB and the Players Association Threw 844 Retirees a Curve [website www.gladstonewriter.com].
"Six hundred forty-four people who played Major League Baseball are being denied pensions by both the league and the union representing the current players because of an error the union committed 38 years ago," Gladstone writes.
To avert a threatened Memorial Day walkout by players in 1980, MLB offered the union a deal in which post-1980 players would need only one game-day of service to be eligible to buy into the league’s premium health insurance plan was and all such a player would need for a benefit allowance was 43 game-days of service.
At the time, the threshold was four years to be vested in the pension plan.
But the union failed to insist on retroactivity for all those players who had more than 43 game days but less than four years of service.
That left hundreds of former players – or their widows – out of the picture.
According to Gladstone, union chief Tony Clark has never said boo about these non-vested retirees, many of whom can’t make ends meet and are suffering from ill health, foreclosed homes, and forced bankruptcies, not to mention inadequate health care coverage.
Yet the current value of the players’ pension and welfare fund is $2.7 billion, according to Forbes. That’s greater than the Gross National Product of many Third World countries, and current MLB retirees make an annual pension of up to $220,000, the IRS reports.
Gladstone says Kevin Pasley, a catcher who played for the Seattle Mariners, depends upon Social Security Disability payments. Linda Kidd Koch, widow of former Tigers pitcher Alan Koch, lost her minuscule baseball money seven months after her husband died in 2015. Another widow, Patty Hilton, lost her husband Dave, formerly with the San Diego Padres, last Sept. 17. But he played from 1972 to 1975. Left without coverage, Patty Hilton called the MLBPA “a soul-crushing organization.”
The union chief is certainly well-protected. Clark, a former All-Star first baseman for the Detroit Tigers, makes considerably more than $2 million per year between his salary and his pension.
Mike Trout, the best-paid position player in the game, has absolutely no business demanding more money for young players while old ones are treated so shamefully.
In any business, newcomers need to prove themselves to work their way up the salary ladder. So it should be in baseball, where arbitration, free agency, and other factors spike salaries exponentially – creating a greater need for the competitive balance tax the union loathes.
Good young players will be rewarded. Just ask Wander Franco, given an 11-year, $182 million contract from the Tampa Bay Rays before he had played even one full season.
For Trout, Max Scherzer, and other eight-figure stars, squeezing the salary lemon dry before it ripens is reprehensible. Reward those who already played and let the kids earn their keep. And stop letting everyone know what everyone else is making.
The average American earns $53,490, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and has no sympathy for a sport where the average salary is $4.38 million, the median income is $1.5 million, and the minimum salary is more than half-a-million – for six months worth of work.
Mike Trout, you do not have our sympathies.
Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ was a proud member of The Wire Service Guild — a union — during his days as an Associated Press sportswriter. He covers baseball for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and other outlets. E.mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teams Should Pick Most Qualified Candidates For Broadcast Booths
By Dan Schlossberg
My philosophical friend Gabrielle Starr lit up the Twitter universe Thursday with a plethora of posts pleading for younger, preferably female, broadcasters to join the broadcast booth of her favorite team, the Boston Red Sox.
On the one hand, she’s right. But it is also possible to argue against her.
I’ve been covering baseball since 1969 and listening to baseball broadcasts even longer than that. I’ve even done a bit of broadcasting, sharing the WAER broadcast booth with Len Berman during the days Syracuse University had a baseball team and “doing an inning” during an Astros-Dodgers exhibition game at Milo Hamilton’s request. I also did an inning of independent minor-league baseball with Marc Ernay in Rockland County, NY.
If baseball expands and new broadcast crews are hired, I hope the new teams choose the best and the brightest for their booths — regardless of age, gender, color, or religious persuasion.
Current broadcast booths may be dominated by white men of a certain age but there’s no reason to usher them out unless they’re doing a bad job. There are certainly enough of those — including many former players who are there because of name recognition rather than an ability to speak proper English.
Personally, I prefer trained professional broadcasters over former players.
I wish Bob Costas could be cloned into 30 pieces and divvied up among the teams. I’d also love to see Al Michaels return, a possibility now that NBC Sports is getting back into the baseball business.
In general, however, the best announcers are now, and have always been, those that work for individual teams.
The late Pete Van Wieren, a Cornell grad who became a Binghamton weatherman before spending three decades in the Braves booth, was probably the best announcer in the game. He had a fantastic broadcast voice, knew the game and its history well, and possessed a polished personality that made listening to him a personal pleasure.
The same can be said of the erudite Vin Scully, who is still with us in retirement, and the late Milo Hamilton, who worked for eight different teams over a career that started with the 1953 St. Louis Browns and stretched well into the 21st century.
Milo has already been honored with the Ford C. Frick Award, given annually by the Baseball Hall of Fame after the vote of a special panel, but Pete, Skip, and Ernie — a talented trio that more than stood the test of time — are still on the outside looking in. That oversight needs to be corrected.
Even MLB Network has its share of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Costas, of course, ranks at the head of the class. And he still has youth on his side too, although looks can be deceiving.
He can’t help that he was born a white male but that shouldn’t be held against him — or against anyone else with the right credentials.
In Northern New Jersey, where I live, I love listening to Mets announcers Howie Rose (radio) and Gary Cohen (TV) and wonder what the Yankees will do when John Sterling retires. Well into his 80s, he’s still going strong, with terrific support from Suzyn Waldman, a pioneer among female broadcasters (her training as an opera singer helps).
Ernie Harwell, who did the little-watched television version of Bobby Thomson’s “shot heard ‘round the world,” was a gem — personally and professionally — who deserved the broadcast longevity he had. He’s gone now but his dulcet tones will never fade from memory. Nor will his litany of musical compositions, including Hooked on a Feeling by B.J. Thomas.
I also loved Les Keiter, who re-created San Francisco Giants games for WINS before it became an all-news station. He gave us “the bloop and the blast” before Bob Prince — and was the only radio voice so compelling that listeners had both eyes and ears glued to the game when he was on. Fans of the old New York Giants were grateful for his greatness.
Want to learn more about baseball broadcasters? Check out the myriad of books, including Voices of the Game, by Curt Smith, or visit the Baseball Hall of Fame and peruse the list of Ford Frick Award winners. As in the Cooperstown gallery itself, not all deserve to be there and some deserving candidates are not.
But in this extended off-season, even arguing about the game is better than ignoring it. And controversy of any kind stirs the pot of the Hot Stove League.
Former AP newsman Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is Weekend Editor of Here’s The Pitch and baseball writer for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Ball Nine, and more. He’s also the author or co-author of 40 baseball books. E.mail Dan at email@example.com.
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