Complete games and respect:
Jim Golden, 83, is a former Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher who resides in Topeka, In 69 career games, including 20 starts, Golden won nine games, two of which were shutouts, and saved one other. In 208 total innings, he threw five complete games. These days, fans are fortunate if they see a starter go five or six innings.
A native of Eldon, Missouri, Golden earned $9,000 in his rookie season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. In his final campaign with the Houston Colt. 45s, in 1963, he earned $10,500.
Not only are complete games a thing of the past, but salaries are different now too. The Kansas City Royals’ two-player representatives, Alex Gordon, and Whit Merrifield make, respectively, $20 million and $1 million each.
I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to suggest that men like Golden were part of the generation of ballplayers who stood on picket lines, endured labor stoppages and went without paychecks, all so Alex and Whit can command the monies they get. And nobody begrudges them from getting it, either. This is still a free-market economy, and if you can get it, more power to you. But I also feel that it is about time attention is paid to the men like Golden, who helped grow the game.
Do Alex and Whit understand that?
Do Alex and Whit know that, in order to avert a threatened 1980 Memorial Day Weekend walkout by the players, 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 Golden who had more than 43 game days but less than four years of service.
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 you were called up to the Royals on August 15 of this year, and you stayed on the team’s 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 Golden eventually passes, the monies he’s now receiving won’t go to any of his loved ones or designated beneficiaries.
Does that sound fair to you?
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.
In my opinion, Golden is being taken advantage of by an $11 billion business that can afford to do more for the men like him. So if you agree, perhaps you’d even be willing to tweet Whit your thoughts on the matter since, of the two, he has more of a social media presence than does Gordon. Merrifield’s Twitter handle is @whitmerrifield.
Remind him that, like a complete game, respect for your elders shouldn’t be a thing of the past.