Douglas J. Gladstone, Author “A Bitter Cup of Coffee; How MLB & The Players Association Threw 874 Retirees a Curve”
There are 500 pre-1980 players who do not receive pensions from having played Major League Baseball (MLB).
These men don’t receive a traditional pension from MLB because the rules for receiving MLB pensions changed in 1980. Thee 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.
Since the union representing baseball players, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), didn’t insist on retroactivity for the pre-1980 players, they were not included in the rules change.
Instead, starting in 2011, they all began receiving non-qualified retirement payments based on a complicated formula that had to have been calculated by an actuary.
In brief, for every quarter of service a man had accrued, he’d get $625. Four quarters (one year) totaled $2,500. Sixteen quarters (four years) amounts to the maximum, $10,000.
Meanwhile, a vested retiree can earn a pension of as much as $210,000, according to the IRS. Even the minimum pension for 43 game days of credit after 1980 is a reported $34,000.
To date, MLBPA has been loathe to divvy up anymore of the collective pie. Even though Forbes recently reported that the current players’ pension and welfare fund is valued at $2.7 billion, MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark — the first former player ever to serve as leader of the union — has never commented about these non-vested retirees, many of whom are filing for bankruptcy at advanced ages, having banks foreclose on their homes and are so sickly and poor that they cannot afford adequate health care coverage.
One of the affected men is Frank Bernard Bork, a resident of Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio who turned 77 in July. A native of Buffalo, New York, Bork attended Bishop Fallon High School in Buffalo from 1954-1958.
A pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1964, Mr. Bork appeared in 33 games, all but two of them in relief. He recorded two wins and two saves in 42 innings.
What’s more, the payment cannot be passed on to a surviving spouse or designated beneficiary. So none of Mr. Bork’s loved ones, including his wife, Dana, will receive that payment when he dies. These men are also not eligible to be covered under the league’s umbrella health insurance plan.
After hanging up his spikes, Mr. Bork was the president of a home furnishings company in Dublin called the Sunrise Sales Group.