For a sport that relies heavily on older fans watching its product, Major League Baseball (MLB) sure treats its retired players disrespectfully.
Take 77-year-old Carmen Fanzone for instance. The Sherman Oaks resident was a valuable utility player who appeared in 237 career games with the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox.
Fanzone and 632 other men, such as 67-year-old Bob “The Macaroni Pony” Coluccio, of Costa Mesa, 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 non-qualified life annuities based on a complicated formula that had to have been calculated by an actuary.
In brief, for every 43 game days of service a man had on an active MLB roster, he’d get $625, up to the maximum of $10,000. And that payment is before taxes were taken out.
For his three and three-quarters years of service, Fanzone gets a net payment of approximately $6,262. Meanwhile, the maximum allowable pension a vested retiree can earn is $225,000.
When the player dies, the payment is not permitted to be passed on to a designated beneficiary, like a spouse or other loved one. So when he dies, Fanzone’s payments won’t go to his wife, Sue.
By contrast, the loved ones of men who played after 1980 do receive death benefits.
Men like Fanzone and Coluccio are being penalized for playing in the majors at the wrong time.
You have to wonder why this sad situation persists. After all, according to data recently released by Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Magna Global, the average age of a baseball viewer is 57, up from 52 in 2006. Of the top major sports, the national pastime has the oldest viewers, with 50 percent of its audience 55 or older, according to Nielsen ratings. The average age of baseball viewers is 53, compared with 47 for the NFL and 37 for the NBA, according to the ratings. Similarly, according to DemographicPartitions.org, half of MLB’s fan base is 55-years-of-age and older.
Is our national pastime guilty of ageism? It’s certainly a fair question to ask, considering the 30 club owners recently wrote a $10 million check to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
That’s right: the owners chose museum relics rather than flesh and blood retirees.