Brown, who attended Grant Union High School and later California State University in Sacramento, appeared in 64 games during his career. Used primarily as a pinch runner and defensive replacement, he came up to the plate 70 times, collected 15 hits, including three doubles, scored 11 runs and drove in another two.
So why is the 69-year-old being left out in the cold?
Brown and 640 other retirees do not receive MLB pensions because of a change in the vesting requirements that occurred over the 1980 Memorial Day Weekend. The union was offered the opportunity to give its members the following deal: one game day of service credit to buy into the league’s umbrella health insurance plan, and 43 game days of service for a pension, which is currently worth as much as $220,000.
The problem for these pre-1980 players was that the union forgot to request retroactive coverage for all the men like Brown who, after hanging up his spikes, drove a FedEx truck for nearly three decades and worked for a construction company, according to biographer Rory Costello, of the Society of American Baseball Research.
In April 2011, the league and union tried to remedy the problem by giving men like Brown $625 for each 43 game days of service they accrued on an active MLB roster, up to $10,000. But when the man passes, the payment passes with him.
So none of Mr. Brown’s loved ones, such as his wife, Deana, or either of his two children – son Channing or daughter Deonne — will receive that payment when he dies. These men are also not eligible to buy into the league’s umbrella health insurance plan.
You’d think the suits who run the national pastime would be above this sort of thing. After all, the league 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 each of the 30 clubs is up 19 percent from 2016, to $1.54 billion.
But even though Forbes recently reported that the current players’ pension and welfare fund is valued at $2.7 billion, MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark 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.
Unions are supposed to help hard working women and men in this country get a fair shake in life. But the so-called MLBPA labor leader 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, Brown and all the other 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. Are MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and Clark suggesting they can’t afford to pay these men more? Given the economics of the sport, $6.41 million is chump change.
It’s about time Manfred and Clark did the right thing.
Douglas J. Gladstone (@GLADSTONEWRITER) is the author of “A Bitter Cup of Coffee: How MLB & the Players’ Association Threw 874 Retirees a Curve.” His website is www.gladstonewriter.com.