As a businessman who ran his family’s plumbing store for years, Len Boehmer is very well acquainted with leaching, which is the process of dissolving a soluble component at a wetted surface.
Having played for the Cincinnati Reds and New York Yankees a long time ago, he’s no doubt met his fair share of leeches too.
Baseball’s band of brothers have deserted men like Boehmer, who ran his family’s plumbing supply business, Boehmer Brothers Utility Supply, on Schaper Road in Foristell, after he retired from the game. That is because, in order to avert a threatened 1980 Memorial Day Weekend walkout by the players, Major League Baseball (MLB) made the following sweetheart offer to union representatives: going forward, all a post-1980 player would need to be eligible to buy into the league’s premium health insurance plan was one game day of service; all a post-1980 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.
The problem was, the union representing the players, the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA), failed to insist on retroactivity for all those players like Boehmer, who had more than 43 game days but less than four years of service.
During parts of three seasons, in 1967, 1969 and 1971, Boehmer played in 50 career games and came up to the plate 116 times and collected 19 hits, including four doubles. He also scored five times.
Okay, so maybe those are not Hall of Fame numbers, but Boehmer did something that most of us will never do. He’s one of only 13,000 individuals to play in “The Show” since 1947.
According to the IRS, a current MLB retiree can receive a pension of up to $225,000. Even a post-1980 player who only has 43 game days of service credit receives a minimum pension of $3,589 at the age of 62 if he stays on the active roster from August 15 to October 1.
The league and union partially remedied this situation in April 2011. The pre-1980 players alive at the time were each awarded payments of $625 for every 43 game days of service the man had. The maximum payment permitted is $10,000 per man.
So if the St. Louis Cardinals called you up on August 15 of this year, and you stayed on their active roster till October 1, when you turn 62-years-old, you’d qualify for a lifetime pension of $3,589 that can be passed on to your loved ones. But when Boehmer eventually passes, the monies he’s now receiving won’t go to his wife, Alice, or any of their four children or 12 grandchildren.
The MLBPA’s leadership has been loath to divvy up anymore of the collective pie. Even though the players’ welfare and benefits fund is worth more than $3.5 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.
So when I refer to the suits who are running and ruining, our national pastime as leeches, I’m not kidding. They are making profits by sponging off the men like Boehmer, who stood on picket lines and endured labor stoppages all so that someone like Bryce Harper could sign a 13-year contract valued at $330 million.
When Len Boehmer played, it wasn’t uncommon for men to be earning, on average, $12,000. These days, the 25th man riding the pines on the bench is guaranteed $555,000. Each team is valued at $1.54 billion, and MLB’s revenue is up 325 percent since 1992
In my opinion, Len Boehmer is being taken advantage of by an $11 billion business that most certainly can afford to do more, and should do more, for the men like him who helped grow the game.
Douglas J. Gladstone is a freelance writer and author of two books, including A Bitter Cup of Coffee; How MLB & The Players’ Association Threw 874 Retirees a Curve. You can visit his website at www.gladstonewriter.com