Oy Vey! Members of The Tribe Don’t Receive Pensions and Health Insurance from MLB
Like a lot of Jews, I’m of the opinion that you can’t have justice for yourself unless other people have justice as well. As you may know, my book, A Bitter Cup of Coffee, tells the true story of why nearly 900 retired ballplayers, all of whom played between 1947 and 1979, don’t have pensions.
It’s my opinion that we should all have a little healthy respect for those who came before us. For me, this tradition of helping others attain justice is best expressed in Zechariah 8:16 — the world stands on three things: on truth, on justice and on peace. Execute truth, justice and peace within your gates and, when truth is achieved, justice is done.
Also, in Pirkei Avot, that portion of the Talmud which teaches ethical principles, I once read that ‘the sword comes into the world because of justice delayed, because of justice perverted and because of those who render wrong decisions.’ Well, even though Major League Baseball (MLB) and the players union legally don’t have to do anything for these men, I’ve always felt their failure to help them was morally wrong.
For your information, on April 21, 2011, because of all the publicity that I generated, MLB and the players union announced with much fanfare that they would be awarding these men up to $10,000 over the next five years as compensation for their service. Unfortunately, these payments don’t include health insurance, nor do they permit the player to pass his monies onto a loved one, spouse or child in the event of his death. And given that MLB is a $8 billion industry, most of the players believe that they have been thrown the equivalent of a bone. It was appeasement at its most obvious.
The average baseball pension as of 2006 was $32,000. However, most of these men aren’t seeing anywhere near that amount. Take a man like Steve Grilli, for example. His son, Jason, currently pitches for the Pittsburgh Pirates. When Jason retires and turns 62, he’ll get a pension and be eligible to buy into the umbrella health insurance coverage plan that the league and union offer. But his dad has to be content with the measly $3,700 net payment — that’s after taxes are taken out — he’s currently getting for his 2 1/2 years of verified service.
Nobody knows what Marvin Rotblatt, who pitched for the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign team that won the 1948-49 Big Nine championship, thinks about all this. He is one of the men affected by this situation. Featured in the 2010 documentary “Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story,” the 85-year-old Rotblatt is currently hospitalized, according to his son, Steven, a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker Martin & Marbry. Rotblatt’s last known address was in Niles, Illinois.
In 1964, students at Carleton College in Northfield, MN created a slow pitch softball league and named it after Rotblatt. The game now is associated with an annual beer softball game.
Born in Chicago on October 18, 1927, Rotblatt was a 5’7″ lefthander who played for the Chicago White Sox in parts of three seasons — 1948, 1950 and 1951. In 1951, he appeared in a career best 26 games; he started two of them and was credited with two saves that year. His Earned Run Average that season was a career best 3.40.
All told, Rotblatt’s lifetime statistics are as follows: he appeared in 35 games during his abbreviated career and made seven starts. In a total of 74 2/3 innings, he gave up 74 hits.
An insurance salesman after he hung up his spikes, Rotblatt and Chicago neurologist Harold Klawans feuded in 1988 over a collection of case studies Klawans published called Toscanini’s Fumble. In it, Klawans protected his patients by reportedly giving them the names of baseball players. The real-life patient who got Rotblatt’s name suffered from progressive multifocal leukoencephalitis; Rotblatt at the time charged defamation of character and estimated he lost approximately $250,000 worth of business as a result, according to a published account.
It is problematic whether or not Rotblatt received his life annuity payments for 2011 and 2012. Credited with approximately 1 1/2 years of service, he’d be due approximately $7,000 before taxes; if he were to pass, his loved ones or designated benefiiciaries would not receive any additional payments for 2013-2016.
Don F. Taussig, of Jupiter, Florida, is another member of the Tribe (no, not the Cleveland Indians) who is one of the affected men. He played for the San Francisco Giants in 1958, the St. Louis Cardinals in 1961 and Houston Colt 45s in 1962 before hanging up his spikes. An outfielder who had a career .262 batting average, Mr. Taussig, 80, is a graduate of Hofstra University whose post-baseball life saw him owning a squash business and self publishing his own book. He was born in Manhattan in February 1932.
I invite you to access my book’s official website, at http://www.abittercupofcoffee.com, to check out all the articles written about me and my efforts to help these retirees. Former Seattle Pilot and Kansas City Athletic pitcher Bill Edgerton, of Foley, Alabama, at long last received his retroactive checks for 2011 and 2012 after MLB had initially denied him the payment; his story was recently reported on by columnist Al Lesar for the South Bend Tribune: http://www.southbendtribune.com/sbt-for-edgerton-the-check-finally-was-in-the-mail-20121115,0,688335.column
Though Thanksgiving Day is a uniquely American holiday, it’s also an occasion to take stock of all the blessings the Jewish people are grateful for. It’s also an opportunity to work for and create change. That’s what I’ve been trying to do for the last three years. I hope my efforts have helped not only men like Rotblatt and Taussig, but all those retirees who have been hosed by MLB and the players’ union.
(Douglas J. Gladstone’s book, A Bitter Cup of Coffee, is available by telephoning Word Association Publishers at 1-800-827-7903)