The Thirty-Year Journey of a Major League Pitcher and Broadcaster

15 March 2010

Douglas J. Gladstone tells the story of pensions denied to former MLB players

A new book by journalist Douglas J. Gladstone, A Bitter Cup of Coffee: How the MLB and Players Association Threw 874 Retirees A Curve, tells the story of hundreds of former big-league baseball players who were denied pensions as a result of the failure of both the league and the union to retroactively amend the vesting requirement change that granted instant pension eligibility to ballplayers in 1980. 

Prior to that year, ballplayers had to have four years service credit to earn an annuity and medical benefits. Since 1980, however, all they have needed is one day of service credit for health insurance and 43 days of service credit for a pension.

Gladstone began working on this book after interviewing former players about the golden age of baseball. In the course of an interview with Jimmy Qualls, he stumbled upon the story of 847 players who were not included in the pension and benefits plan for former major leaguers. He recalls the moment that this book was conceived:
Admittedly, I never really paid much attention to the business side of baseball. These days, of course, it’s pretty hard to ignore that aspect of the sport. So, last June, when I was interviewing the former Chicago Cub, Jimmy Qualls, for a Baseball Digest story that was ultimately published in September 2009, and he casually mentioned that he wasn’t receiving a pension, being the inquisitive type, I asked him why. When he explained the reasons why he wasn’t, I knew I had the makings of a story that had to be told.
Nellie, who turns 82 today, is among the 847 players who don't receive pensions for their service on the baseball diamond. Gladstone interviewed him last year, and his story is featured in the final chapter of A Bitter Cup of Coffee. 

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The Thirty-Year Journey of a Major League Baseball Pitcher and Broadcaster