Dick Baney Mug.jpg
Dick Baney
Dick Baney pitched for the Seattle Pilots and Cincinnati Reds between 1969 and 1974. Pitcher Bill Edgerton ended his playing career - which


Dick Baney and Bill Edgerton, Former Seattle Pilots, Two Faces of MLB Pension Debate

Dick Baney Mug.jpg
Dick Baney
Dick Baney pitched for the Seattle Pilots and Cincinnati Reds between 1969 and 1974. Pitcher Bill Edgerton ended his playing career - which spanned parts of three seasons - with the Pilots. Both players, one-time members of Seattle's first Major League Baseball team, are at the center of a long and contentious argument from Major League Baseball's past: should non-vested players, who played between 1947 and 1979, receive pensions and health insurance for the time they served in America's Pastime, employed as professional ballplayers, short as some of their stints may have been?

Author and journalist Doug Gladstone, who wrote the 2010 book A Bitter Cup of Coffee: How MLB and the Players Association Threw 874 Retirees a Curve, says yes. And he's been saying so loudly, for years. Championing the cause of players like Baney, Edgerton and others, Gladstone doesn't mince words when he talks about the situation.

"The more and more I researched the story the more appalled I was," says Gladstone. "Major League Baseball is hosing the players of my youth."

As even Gladstone admits, it's a complicated issue. Prior to a deal struck in 1980 between Major League Baseball and the players union, which averted a strike according to Gladstone, players needed four years service credit in the league to earn an annuity and medical benefits once retired and of age. Moving forward, the agreement awarded ballplayers with one day of service credit health insurance, and players with 43 days of service credit for a pension.

Put simply: since 1980 all a ballplayer has needed is one day of service credit for health insurance and 43 days of service credit for a pension. Before 1980 players needed four years to earn the same thing.

That was nice, of course, but it left a large swath of players who suited up for Major League teams between 1947 and 1979 out to dry. Major Leaguers who played for over four years were covered, but what about the ballplayers who didn't quite meet that mark?

That list includes Edgerton, Baney and the 874 retirees referenced in Gladstone's book title - though that number is constantly shrinking. As the author ruefully notes, the players from Major League Baseball's past don't live forever.

In large part because of efforts like Gladstone's, in 2011 Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association announced that inactive, non-vested players who took the field between 1947 and 1979 - the formally screwed - would receive up to $10,000 per year, depending on the length of their service credit. A new collective bargaining agreement unveiled in November 2011 extended these life annuities through 2016. At first glance it seemed the problem had been fixed. The formerly forgotten players were no longer forgotten.

But it wasn't quite that simple, and Gladstone was quick to point out the deal's shortcomings, calling it only a partial victory.

Here's how it works for the 800-or so players in question: Under the formula used to calculate an eligible retiree's payment, for every quarter of service a player tallied (or every 43 days of service on a major league roster) they receive $625, up to 16 quarters or four years. Gladstone is quick to note that these are annuities, not pensions, and cannot be transferred to a player's family upon death. When the players inevitably pass on, the league is off the hook financially.

It's small peanuts for an $8 billion industry. And it rubs plenty of former players the wrong way.

"While I'm happy Major League Baseball has given them something, it took 32 years for them to do it," says Gladstone.

bill edgerton.jpg
Under this agreement, Gladstone tells me, Baney receives roughly $2,000 a year. Edgerton, on the other hand, hasn't received a dime - with the powers that be claiming he didn't get his papers in verifying his 68 games worth or service in time to qualify for the the paltry $625 a year that's been dangled by MLB as compensation for years of neglect.

So far, however, few are really listening ... except for guys like Gladstone.

"The real tragedy is guys like Edgerton," says Gladstone, who isn't optimistic about the future offering much hope for players like him.

"We just want what everyone else is getting," Baney told the OC Weekly's Matt Coker for a piece that ran in the paper earlier this year. "I don't want to sound like I hated my playing days. I loved every minute of it; I loved the opportunity. If I could do it all over again, I would. It's just there are guys out there who need help."

Might the situation change sometime soon?

"I don't see that happening, quite frankly," says Gladstone about the possibility of Major League Baseball and the Players Association reaching a new agreement that takes better care of non-vested former players. "Non-vested players have no legal rights. The Union doesn't owe them. Do I think it's the wrong decision? Obviously. There's more than enough money to go around.

"I don't think there's going to be meaningful change, at all."

Something to chew on, besides peanuts and Cracker Jacks, while you watch tonight's MLB All Star Game.

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