Unjust MLB pension rule deprives vet, 95

I have no idea whether United States Representative Tom Marino (Republican — 10th District) will ever be confirmed to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

But while he’s still a member of Congress, he can help a decorated war hero named George Yankowski, as well as 500 or so other former players, who don’t receive pensions from having played Major League Baseball (MLB).

The 95-year-old Mr. Yankowski was signed by no less than Connie Mack and played for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1942.

He wanted to become an aviation cadet, but ended up in the infantry and trained as a sniper.

He sailed for Europe in 1944 with the 346th Infantry Regiment in the 87th Infantry Division.

He fought in Metz, France — and then moved to Luxembourg, Germany, where he took part in the Battle of the Bulge.

He earned the Bronze Star and the Combat Infantry Badge for his frontline encounters during that famous 44 day campaign.

Yankowski came home from the war in June 1945 and after a three month battle with hepatitis in October of that year, got officially discharged in January 1946.

After doing his patriotic tour of duty, he resumed his career with the Chicago White Sox in 1949.

Sadly, the contributions of a man who defended our freedoms and liberties fighting overseas doesn’t mean much to MLB or the union representing today’s current players, the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA).

See, the rules for receiving MLB pensions changed in 1980.

Yankowski, as well as former Phillies Mac Scarce, Jim Hutto, Gary Neibauer and 82-year-old Tom Qualters, of Somerset, do not receive pensions because they didn’t accrue four years of service credit,

That is what ballplayers who played between 1947 – 1979 needed to be eligible for the pension plan.

Instead, they all receive nonqualified 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.

And that payment is before taxes are taken out.

Meanwhile, a vested retiree receiving an MLB pension can earn as much as $210,000.

Even the minimum pension for just 43 game days is a reported $34,000.

The payment can’t be passed on to a surviving spouse or designated beneficiary either.

So none of Yankowski’s loved ones, such as his wife, Mary, will receive that money when he eventually dies.

George Yankowski was willing to take a bullet for us.

To die for us. And how do we repay him?

With a gross check of no more than $2,500.

And that’s before taxes are taken out.

When he got his first check six years ago, you know how he spent it? He used the money to pay for sorely needed dental work.

In light of Forbes’ recent report that the players’ pension and welfare fund is valued at $2.7 billion, I think it is reprehensible that both the league and the union representing the current players, the MLBPA are against taking better care of its 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 insurance coverage.

Because of this arrogance, I believe it’s time to repeal baseball’s 95-year-old anti-trust exemption.

MLB maintains the loss of the antitrust exemption would affect its minor league operations nationwide and create instability through team relocations.

A Stanford professor emeritus of economics, Roger Noll doesn’t believe baseball would suffer much if the exemption were tossed.

“While baseball may not like having less control over where teams play and where they can televise their games, it would not be economically threatened if its antitrust exemption were to be weakened or even eliminated,” Noll told the Stanford News Service two years

In a 2002 Slate article entitled “Baseball’s Con Game,” Rutgers’ David Greenberg wrote that the exemption “stems from the government’s naive insistence that baseball is only a game. Alone among professional sports, baseball enjoys immunity from antitrust prosecution because neither Congress nor the Supreme Court has been willing to overturn an ancient decision that baseball is merely an amusement, not a commercial enterprise.”

The idea that baseball isn’t a commercial enterprise is ludicrous, especially since Forbes recently reported that the average team’s value is $1.54 billion — 19 percent more than in 2016.

That’s where Representative Marino comes in.

Representative Marino, whose district office is located at 1020 Commerce Park Drive in Williamsport, is chairman of the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and AntiTrust Law that would have jurisdiction over the repeal of the exemption.

Maybe he can remind the 30 club owners that they’re lucky to have their exemption.

That’s why they should do right by the retirees like Yankowski who aren’t as fortunate as them.

A freelance writer based in New York, Douglas J. Gladstone has been published in multiple newspaper, magazine and webzines. He is also the author of two books, including “A Bitter Cup of Coffee; How MLB & The Players Association Threw 874 Retirees a Curve.”