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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Forgotten Players

First-time author Douglas Gladstone can rightfully take some credit for getting Major League Baseball (MLB) and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) to act last month on a matter they’d generally ignored for years.

At issue was the plight of athletes who played less than four years on a MLB roster between 1947 and 1979. This group was, through a provision in MLB’s 1980 collective bargaining agreement, denied post-career financial benefits, such as health care coverage and pension payments, that have since 1980 been extended to MLB players who spend as little as one day in the major leagues.

Gladstone, author of A Bitter Cup of Coffee: How MLB and the Players Association Threw 874 Retirees a Curve (Word Association Publishers, 2010) will be at Blue Door Books, 501A Central Avenue, Cedarhurst, on Sunday, May 22, at noon to talk about his extensively researched and perceptive look into this dark chapter in MLB’s labor history.

“My sole purpose in writing this book was to do right by the boyhood heroes of my youth, who gave me numerous hours of enjoyment and pleasure while growing up,” said Gladstone. “If in some small way my book helped bring this issue to light, I couldn’t be more pleased.”

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig held a press conference in New York City on April 21 to announce that players who appeared in the major leagues for less than four years from 1947-79 will receive payments of up to $10,000 annually, in each of the next two years, under an agreement between MLB and the MLBPA. The size of each payment will depend on each player’s years of service, and the monies will be drawn from accounts controlled by both MLB and the MLBPA. Payments to these retirees beyond the initial two-year period will be discussed in future collective bargaining agreements, the commissioner’s office stated.

Gladstone, who is traveling to Nassau this month from his home in Saratoga County, New York, was drawn to the topic upon learning that former Chicago Cub Jimmy Qualls, the player who broke up Tom Seaver’s 1969 bid for a no-hitter with a ninth inning single, was not receiving a MLB pension.

“We don’t live in a perfect world, and this is far from a perfect solution to this problem. What was announced on April 21 doesn’t provide health insurance coverage, nor will any player’s spouse or loved one receive a designated beneficiary payment after the man passes,” Gladstone added. “I’ve said on numerous occasions that this whole disgraceful chapter in labor relations was a terrible inequity and injustice that stains baseball’s history. MLB and the union’s joint announcement is a step in the right direction, but if Commissioner Bud Selig and Mr. Michael Weiner [MLBPA’s executive director] really want to do right by these men, they ought to retroactively restore them back into pension coverage.”

Given Gladstone’s passion for the issue, he pulled a punch when composing the book’s title. MLB and the players union in 1980 did more than just throw the 1947-1979 retirees a curve. They threw them under the bus.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net