Former Baseball Players Not Entitled to Pensions

March 16, 2004 (—A federal judge ruled that a group of former major league baseball players were not discriminated against, and are therefore not entitled to pension and medical benefits, the Associated Press reported.

The lawsuit was filed by former New York Mets shortstop Richard Moran, formerHouston  player Ernie Fazio, and former Chicago White Sox player Mike Colbern, although they proposed more than 1,000 other players could become members of the class action lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed last year against commissioner Bud Selig, the major leagues and its 30 teams, alleges racial discrimination, saying that the former players were discriminated against because they were white.     The lawsuit says the plaintiffs were not treated the same as those players who played in the Negro Leagues and for major league teams and who, in 1997, were granted $10,000 annual pensions to even though they never vested under the requirements of baseball’s pension plan, the AP said.   The plaintiffs, who are almost all white, sought those same benefits.  

The players also argued that baseball conspired against them, deciding to fund the pension and medical benefits for the former Negro Leagues players knowing that white players who had played similar lengths had not received those benefits.

The baseball league argued that the former players waited too long to raise legal objections and also said that their decision to provide pension benefits to the former Negro League players was a charitable donation decision and was not built around any employment.  

Although U.S. District Judge Manuel Real said that baseball officials could look at the sympathetic aspects of the case, he granted baseball’s motion for a summary judgment, in effect ruling in favor of the commissioner’s office, according to the AP.

Baseball’s vesting requirements were lowered for medical benefits from four years of major league service to one day and for pension benefits from four years to 43 days, after the 50-day strike in 1981.   This change was not retroactive however, and therefore did not apply to the possible 1,053 members of the proposed class-action lawsuit.

The players also alleged battery and negligence in the lawsuit, claiming that baseball teams directed doctors and trainers to inject players with multiple cortisone shots to mask pain, without informing players of the danger, according to the AP.