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Prince Albert Sports Hall of Famer Dave Pagan knows a thing or two about living in the cold. Growing up in Nipawin, where he still resides, that’s to be expected.
But cold and heartless is another matter entirely.
The head of the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA), Tony Clark is that cold and heartless labor leader because he refuses to go to bat for the 626 retirees, including Pagan, who aren’t receiving pensions for their time playing Major League Baseball (MLB).
A onetime hurler who pitched for four major league clubs (the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners, and Pittsburgh Pirates) over parts of five seasons (1973-1977), Pagan’s rookie salary in 1973 was $6,000. That rose to $16,000 in 1975.
Since the average player made $4.47 million last season, and the minimum salary goes up to $563,500 in 2020, I don’t understand why Clark won’t do the right thing for Pagan and the other men affected, including Courtice’s Tim Harkness, Sr., the former manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs of the Intercounty Baseball League who played for the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers, and Chatham Western County Wolverines pitching coach Bill Atkinson, who pitched for the Montreal Expos.
Ever since 1980, when there was a vesting rule change, these men have been frozen out of receiving a MLB pension. Though they all had more than 43 game days of service but less than four years, they were not retroactively included in the deal that averted a Memorial Day strike that year.
The change reduced the days of service you need to be eligible for a pension from four years to just 43 game days.
It took 31 years for the league and players’ union to partially remedy the problem, Since 2011, men like Pagan have been receiving non-qualified retirement payments of $625 for every 43 game days they were on an active MLB roster, up to a maximum payment of $10,000. Meanwhile, the maximum IRS pension limit for a vested retiree is $225,000.
And here’s another example that ice water runs through Tony Clark’s veins: the payment these men get cannot be passed on to a surviving spouse or designated beneficiary. So when Pagan passes on, none of his survivors — not his wife, Brigitta, nor his daughter, two sons and six grandchildren – will get anything from his time in the game.
In 85 career appearances, Pagan pitched 233 and one-third innings, was credited with four wins and four saves threw three complete games and one shutout.
But thanks to Tony Clark’s snow job, Pagan, who was reportedly raised on a cattle farm in Snowden, isn’t getting a MLB pension.
Imagine you were called up on August 15 of last year by your favorite team and stayed on its roster till October 1. You never played a game, never pinch ran, never pinch-hit, never was used as a defensive replacement. All you did was sit on the bench. For your 43 game days of service, because you played after 1980, you know what you’re guaranteed when you turn 62-years-old? A pension of $3,589. Even though Pagan had more service credit than that, your pension will get passed on to your loved ones when you die.
Is this fair? Of course not. Even giving each man a flat $10,000 – which is what the so-called pre-1947 players received, namely, those men who didn’t pay union dues because they played before the establishment of the pension plan in 1947 – would be better than this ridiculous actuarial computation.
Unions are supposed to help hard-working women and men get a fair shake in life. But the so-called MLBPA labor leader doesn’t seem to want to help anyone but himself — Clark receives a MLB pension AND an annual salary of more than $2.1 million, including benefits, for being the head of the union.
MLB – which recently announced that its revenue was up 325 percent from 1992 and that it has made $500 million since 2015.– is also in a position to help all these men if it really wanted to. What’s more, the average value of each of the 30 clubs is up 19 percent from 2016, to $1.54 billion.
According to a published account, after hanging up his spikes, Pagan worked for a lumber yard and then in the woodwork shop of the Nipawin District Services for the Handicapped. He obviously isn’t a heartless guy.
How I wish the same could be said of Tony Clark.
Douglas J. Gladstone (@GLADSTONEWRITER) is the author of “A Bitter Cup of Coffee: How MLB & the Players’ Association Threw 874 Retirees a Curve.” His website is www.gladstonewriter.com