September 20, 2018

Clark’s Boner

August 16, 2018 by · 1 Comment 

Next month, on September 23, is the 110th anniversary of one of the most famous games in baseball history.

Known as “Merkle’s Boner,” the contest pitted the Chicago Cubs against the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds in New York City. As an estimated 40,000 fans watched, rookie Fred Merkle failed to run to second after what should have been a game-winning hit by Giants shortstop Al Bridwell. Though Moose McCormick of the Giants touched home plate, Merkle did not touch second, preferring instead to make a hasty retreat to the dugout in order to avoid the mob of fans that were swarming the field in celebration.

Hall of Fame second baseman Johnny Evers –  who made up one-third of the famous “Tinker to Evers to Chance” trio — called for the ball from Cubs centerfielder Solly Hofman in order to step on second base and complete a force out.

Since Baseball Rule 4.09 states that “a run is not scored if the runner advances to home base during a play in which the third out is made by any runner being forced out,” McCormick’s winning run was nullified and Merkle was doomed to a life of baseball infamy when the Cubs won the makeup game that was played on October 8.

The Cubs finished with a record of 99-55, thereby beating the Giants, who finished with a 98-56 record, and won the National League championship. They then went on to beat the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.

Though Merkle deserves to be remembered for all the good things he did in the game, his fate was sealed that day.

Hopefully, the boner now being committed by Tony Clark can be corrected.

Clark is the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players’ Association – the union that represents current players. A former All-Star first baseman for the Detroit Tigers, he also played for both the New York Mets and the New York Yankees.

Clark’s boner is not going to bat for the 640 men who do not get pensions for having played Major League Baseball (MLB) because the rules for receiving MLB pensions changed in 1980. Like former Cubs players Gene Hiser and Carmen Fanzone. These men do not get pensions because they didn’t accrue four years of service credit. That was what ballplayers who played between 1947 – 1979 needed to be eligible for the pension plan.

Instead, as of April 2011, all they receive are non-qualified retirement payments. In brief, for every 43 game days of service a man accrued on an active MLB roster, he’d get $625. Four quarters (one year) totaled $2,500. Sixteen quarters (four years) amounts to the maximum, $10,000. And that payment is before taxes were taken out.

What’s more, the payment cannot be passed on to a surviving spouse or designated beneficiary. These men are also not eligible to be covered under the league’s umbrella health insurance plan.

By comparison, post-1980 players are eligible to buy into the league’s generous health insurance plan after only one game day of service. And they only need 43 game days of service on an active roster to get a pension.

What makes this injustice more unseemly is that the national pastime is doing very well financially. MLB recently announced that its revenue was up 325 percent from 1992, and that it has made $500 million since 2015. What’s more, the average value of the each of the 30 clubs is up 19 percent from 2016, to $1.54 billion.

And the 30 club owners recently wrote a $10 million check to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

The owners chose relics rather than retirees.

As for the union, the MLBPA has been loath to divvy up anymore of the collective pie. Which is weird, since unions are supposed to help hard working women and men in this country get a fair shake in life. But Clark 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.

In my opinion, all these non-vested men are being shortchanged by a sport that can afford to do more for them. Just increase the bone that is being thrown these men to $10,000 a year.

That way, Clark can be vindicated for his own boner.

 

A freelance writer based in upstate New York, Douglas J. Gladstone is the author of A Bitter Cup of Coffee; How MLB & The Players Association Threw 874 Retirees a Curve. You can visit his website at www.gladstonewriter.com

Comments

One Response to “Clark’s Boner”
  1. Sheldon L Green says:

    I posted this story in Facebook’s Baseball Strategy.

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