I don’t think of myself as bigoted. I view myself as one of those tree-hugging, goodie-goodie liberals whom Archie Bunker’s son-in-law, Mike Stivic, would be proud to share a picket line with.
But it’s come to my attention that people of color don’t like it when White guys such as myself criticize one of their own. Even if that person of color is clearly in the wrong.
See, for nearly 14 years, I have advocated on behalf of the pre-1980 retirees whom the union representing current Major League ballplayers, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), has refused to go to bat for. Tony Clark, the MLBPA’s executive director, is an African American man who won the 2017 Jackie Robinson Award for Social Justice from the Negroes League Museum in Kansas City.
Why is he not fair game, I ask myself? Why am I not permitted to criticize him?
Granted, in this day and age, when there’s so much racial, political, cultural, and societal polarization, I don’t want to add fuel to the fire. But I just cannot fathom how a social justice warrior won’t lift a finger to help individuals get the short end of the stick.
Apparently, I still have some things to learn.
One of my friends, who is the son of a deceased United States Congressman, told me that I will not earn any allies by telling people of color “what they should or should not do.”
Another buddy, who is a former New York Post columnist, has told me never to mention Clark’s race when I criticize him. That way, he continued, “you maintain the moral high ground….when you invoke his race, you are just ‘cruisin for a bruisin.’”
Am I not permitted to call an African American man a poor excuse for a social justice warrior because he hasn’t done more to help the men such as Aaron Pointer, who won the Harold Moss Award from the Tacoma NAACP two years ago? Is that asking for accountability or is it bigotry?
If you didn’t know, Pointer – a former Houston Astro who later became the first African American referee in the PAC-10, as well as a head linesman in the NFL — is among the 500 or so remaining pre-1980 ballplayers who played in the big leagues who aren’t receiving MLB pensions.
I won’t bore you with the details about why the Black men like Pointer as well as the White guys such as onetime PCL Most Valuable Player Jim Ollom, of Everett, or “Bullet” Bob Reynolds, a resident of Ocean Shores who once starred at Ingraham High School and was later a first-round pick of the San Francisco Giants, are not receiving MLB pensions. What’s important is that Clark – who commands a compensation package, including benefits, of $2.35 million – hasn’t ever made one public statement about these lost boys of summer.
A vested retiree can receive up to $245,000, according to the IRS. But the men like Pointer don’t receive anywhere near that amount.
Beginning in April 2011, the league and union agreed to throw these men a bone of $625 for every 43 games they were on an active MLB roster. Fast forward to 2022: in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement ratified this past March between the league and the MLBPA, the players’ union again threw these 500 remaining retirees a bone when they increased the payment by 15 percent, to $718.75 for every 43 games on an active MLB roster.
The MLBPA also made sure that the minimum salary for current players went up 23.8 percent, from $565,500 to $700,000.
In my opinion, Clark hasn’t displayed leadership on this issue. He has displayed a penchant for taking care of his own, however. For instance, according to its own IRS filing, the union paid its 70-member staff $15.6 million in 2018.
Baseball is an $11 billion industry in which the average player now makes a reported $3.7 million. And while it may sound like sour grapes, namely, that the Pointers and Olloms and Reynolds of the world are resentful that the men who came after them are playing at a time when there’s no absence of money going around, the fact of the matter is that it’s because of the Pointers and Reynolds and Olloms— the guys who grew the game, who stood on picket lines and went without salaries during strikes — that a player such as Wander Franco of the Tampa Bay Rays, who inked an 11-year, $182 million contract in 2021 to play for the club, became at the age of 20 the youngest player in the history of the national pastime to sign a contract worth at least $100 million.,
So it is a real head-scratcher why Clark, who is supposed to be an erudite guy who has an appreciation of the sport’s history, and who himself benefitted from free agency on at least four separate occasions, doesn’t want to help the old-timers. It is certainly not behavior becoming of a social justice warrior.
Social justice warriors don’t turn their backs on anyone, particularly the elderly. Social justice warriors fight for what’s right and try to change things for the better. And when you’re a social justice warrior who is the head of a labor union, it’s part of your job’s tasks and standards to help hard-working men and women get a fair shake in life.
I maintain that Clark is not worthy of an award named for a man who was a pioneer in race relations. This year alone, former ballplayers such as Carl Boles and Mercer Island’s Joe Staton – both of whom were Black – have passed on. And under the terms of the original April 2011 awards agreement between the league and the union, their monies pass with them. So whoever Mr., Boles and Mr. Staton’s survivors are no longer receive the two men’s bones.
Does me pointing all this out about Clark’s inactions as a labor leader make me a bigot? Decide for yourself.
Douglas J. Gladstone lives in upstate New York with his wife and daughter. A freelance magazine writer, he is also the author of two books, including A Bitter Cup of Coffee: How MLB & The Players’ Association Threw 874 Retirees a Curve.”
- MLBDecember 14, 2022A Tale of Two Wyomingites
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- MLBJanuary 19, 2022MLB: Pre-1980 Players Without a Pension List Now Stands at 525