Mighty Casey Has Struck Out (Again)
Less than two weeks ago, on Monday, July 12th, Matt Holliday, he of the $120 million, seven-year contract, participated in the Home Run Derby exhibition as part of the annual All-Star Game festivities at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California.
That same evening, some 1600 miles away from Anaheim, in Sutter, Illinois, 64-year-old Jimmy Qualls came home to tell his long time companion that he had been pink slipped at the plant in Quincy, Illinois where he had previously been working for a veterinary supply service company.
Holliday pounded five dingers that night. Meanwhile, Qualls was preparing to pound the pavement to find a new job.
Qualls, of course, is the former Chicago Cub who famously broke up Tom Seaver’s bid for a perfect game, on July 9, 1969.Â But that game was more than four decades ago. Qualls has his memories, but that’s about it. Now, not only is he down on his luck, but Qualls and 873 other retired ballplayers are without pensions, too, all because neither Major League Baseball (MLB) nor the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) want to retroactively amend the vesting requirement that conferred instant pension eligibility on every ballplayer who’s had even a day’s worth of service credit in the big leagues since 1980.
You don’t even have to play the field to be eligible for an annuity. All you need to do is be on an active big league roster for 43 days to get your pension. For the league’s health benefits, all you need to do is be on that roster for one game. One game. That’s mind boggling.
Mind you, I don’t begrudge Holliday, or Ryan Howard ($125 million contract extension over five years) or A-Roid ($25,500,000 per year) their hefty paychecks. They’re obviously talented, gifted athletes. They should be rewarded for their skills and their contributions to the game. It is, after all, their good fortune to play at a time when owners are, in fact, doling out that kind of money.
But what about men like Qualls, who some would suggest paved the path so that Holliday, Howard and A-Roid could earn these ridiculous salaries?Â How come neither the league nor the union wants to compensate them for their contributions to the game?
If that’s a real head scratcher for you, consider this question, instead — why is the players union suddenly sticking out a tin cup and panhandling for monies from the United States government?
Yup, you read that right. Somewhere, Ernest Lawrence Thayer is turning over in his grave. With apologies to the late poet, that’s because United States Senator Bob Casey has gone to bat for labor unions.
Now, in and of itself, the Pennsylvania Democrat’s recently introduced legislation, the “Create Jobs & Save Benefits Act,” is a well intentioned measure. After all, with Congressional midterm elections coming up, what politician wouldn’t want to save benefits and create jobs for people?
The problem is, in sponsoring what is tantamount to a taxpayer subsidized $165 billion bailout of organized labor, including the MLBPA and the Teamsters, Senator Casey’s bill would shift the liabilities of the players union pension fund — widely regarded as being among the best funded plans in the nation — to the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
Listen, I’m a pro-union man. Unions advocate for all the hard-working men and women, and their families, who are paying the taxes in this country.Â I’ve got no problem with unions. They support us working stiffs.
Senator, you want to bail out the common man on Main Street? I have no problem with that. But do you seriously expect us average Joes to support a bailout of the baseball players union? Trust me, Holliday, Howard and A-Roid don’t need the help.
You’d think Casey would have difficulty fielding a team to support his tomfoolery, but you’d be wrong. There are nine Republican members of Congress — I’ll resist calling them the Mudville Nine — who are marching to the same beat as Casey and have joined his squad, including United States Representatives Patrick Tiberi, of Ohio; Jo Ann Emerson, of Missouri, Earl Pomeroy, of North Dakota and Thaddeus McCotter, of Michigan. Not surprisingly, their companion piece of legislation, HR 3936, is called “The Preserve Benefits & Job Act.”
These 10 legislators are clearly dropping the ball. Let me tell you why.
In doing the research for my recently released book, I learned that the league is going to soon ask each of the 30 teams to increase their annual pension contributions from $157 million to more than $210 million.Â So theoretically, if that extra $53 million goes into the coffers of the players union, the MLBPA won’t need any financial assistance from the U.S.A.
And here’s a novel idea — maybe, just maybe, they’ll use some of that extra dough to take care of Qualls and Company. It would be the right thing to do.
As far as both the Senate and House bills are concerned, officials on both sides of the aisle need to remember that they’re not baseball players trying to hit for the cycle. Rather, they’re politicians, and this is an election cycle. The only way they get returned to Washington this year is if their fans at home vote for them in November. That’s why they need to turn a blind eye to Casey’s pitch.
(Gladstone‘s book, A Bitter Cup of Coffee; How MLB & The Players Association Threw 874 Retirees A Curve, was published by Word Association Publishers in April. To order it, please contact the publisher directly at 1-800-827-7903)