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

08 May 2011

Jim Qualls, Chicago Cubs Outfielder and Tenant Farmer

A moving article by George Vescey in today's New York Times tells the story of former Chicago Cubs outfielder and pinch-hitting specialist Jim Qualls, who, like Nellie King, didn't qualify for a pension because he played in the big leagues for less than four years. Qualls is now a tenant farmer; his story was featured in Douglas Gladstone's powerful book, A Bitter Cup of Coffee. In today's New York Times article, Vescey interviewed Qualls:

“I didn’t qualify for a pension and I never expected one,” Qualls said the other day while waiting for the rain to subside so he could plant soybeans near the Mississippi River.

Qualls, who played in 63 games in bits of three seasons, is among approximately 850 former major leaguers whose lives have improved slightly in the past month because of a financial agreement for those who fell through baseball’s safety net. Some older players are emphatically not happy with the terms.

The issue is what contemporary athletes owe players who came before them. Some modern players acknowledge their predecessors’ low salaries and poor medical treatment. Others are busy building mansions and accumulating expensive cars and do not remember Jackie Robinson, much less Jim Qualls.

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