Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Retired players being shortchanged by MLB pensions


April 20, 2018

Stephen Hertz, who managed the Tel Aviv Lightning in the Israel Baseball League after playing for the Houston Colt .45s and coaching nearly three decades at Miami-Dade Community College, is one of 644 retirees who do not receive Major League Baseball 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. 

Another former Houston Colt .45 player, 86-year-old Don Taussig, is in the same boat. A Jupiter, Florida, resident, Taussig, who also played for the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals, had a career .262 batting average. His post-baseball life saw him owning a squash business and self-publishing his own book.

The problem for these pre-1980 players was that the union forgot to request retroactive coverage for all the men like Hertz and Taussig.

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, former Detroit Tigers All-Star first baseman Tony Clark, the first player ever to be the executive director of the union representing today’s players, the Major League Baseball Players Association, 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.

And then there’s the sad case of Alan Koch’s widow.

Koch, who died in 2015, is buried in the Bnai Jeshurun Cemetery in Demopolis, Alabama. He was also one of the retired players who didn’t receive a MLB pension. A pitcher for the Washington Senators and Detroit Tigers, he appeared in 42 career games over parts of the 1963 and 1964 seasons. He hurled a total of 128 innings, was credited with four wins and had one complete game to his credit.

For more information about Koch’s life, read this transcript of an interview he gave to Sandra Berman of the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum in Atlanta, Georgia—http://www.thebreman.org/Portals/0/Oral%20History%20Transcripts/Koch,%20Alan%20Transcript%20MASTER%2010819%20Ready%20for%20Web%20R1262016.pdf

In April 2011, the league and union tried to remedy the problem by giving men like Hertz, Taussig, and Koch $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 now Linda Koch, who uses an oxygen tank every day, gets squat.

In my opinion, Linda Koch, as well as Hertz and Taussig, 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 spousal benefits to widows? That they can’t continue these payments so Hertz ad Taussig can enjoy their years on golden pond? Given the economics of the sport, $6.44 million is chump change.

It’s about time these two chumps realize that.

Douglas J. Gladstone is the author of “A Bitter Cup of Coffee: How MLB & the Players’ Association Threw 874 Retirees a Curve.” His website is http://www.gladstonewriter.com.


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