By Daniel I. Dorfman–
CHICAGO (WSCR) Don Dillard is 93 years old. He played parts of six seasons in Major League Baseball with the Cleveland Indians and Milwaukee Braves. Today, he likes to fish at his Greenville, South Carolina home as he recovers from a stroke. Yesterday he got some good – if belated – news that he will receive an annual payment of up to $10,000 for his time in baseball – even though he didn’t qualify for a pension. But juxtapose Dillard’s story with the stories of some of the current owners in baseball.
MLB commissioner Bud Selig announced yesterday that players who played from 1947 to 1980 from four to seven years will receive annual cash payments of up $10,000, since they did not qualify for a pension at the time they played. It was an appropriate, if very tardy, thing for MLB to do for those players.
Over 900 players will receive payments, and Dillard expects to be one of them, even though he has yet to be officially notified.
“I didn’t have any Social Security so I was just out on a limb,” Dillard said. “But by and large I will be depending on the money.”
Dillard did have other sources of money to squeak by through post-baseball years but he had to take odd carpentry jobs to keep himself afloat. He will use his payments in addition to Medicare to pay for his medical costs, but this money will hardly provide a lavish lifestyle.
Dillard is one of the “lucky” ones that will receive this money, given that other players from that time have passed on.
“I know from talking to some of them through the years, they feel they have been shortchanged,” said Lou Brissie, a pitcher in the late 40s and early 50s who lost part of his leg in World War II, but managed to come back to the majors. “They would ask to be named a coach for 90 days, but they never got any positive results.”
Brissie does receive an MLB pension, but sympathized with many of his contemporaries who don’t.
“I think a number of the guys complained about it,” he said. “No matter how many of the guys are still around, it is still a move in the right direction.”
It was interesting how Selig’s announcement came out the same week MLB wrested control of the Los Angeles Dodgers from Frank McCourt. This action came after McCourt was no longer thought capable of operating the Dodgers, especially since he had to get a $30 million loan from FOX just to meet the payroll of one of the most venerable franchises in all of sports.
McCourt’s nasty divorce shined a light on his lifestyle, and it looks like he never should have been allowed to buy the Dodgers in the first place. Still, no matter how this turns out – and McCourt is threatening legal action – I doubt there are going to be too many tag days for him, considering he will likely walk away with tens of millions of dollars in profits. The Dodgers being in Chicago is an ironic twist, given one of the few high points of McCourt’s ownership was their sweep of the Cubs in 2008, fueled, or should I say juiced, by Manny Ramirez.
On the other side of North America, the New York Mets find themselves in serious financial problems because their owner, Fred Wilpon, was heavily invested with convected Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff. MLB had to give the Mets a big loan last year, but Selig has not taken over the operations of the team, stating the situations were different. But it is possible that day will come. A lot of people were swindled by Madoff, so it is hard to blame Wilpon, but how many will get the golden parachute he will get if he is forced out?
One of the first lessons we are taught is life is not fair. And it is nice to see baseball attempting to correct a longstanding wrong in the case of the Don Dillards of the world.
But when these stories are put together side by side, the happiness for Dillard is swallowed up by the unfairness of the whole thing.
Do you agree with Daniel? Post your comments below.
Daniel I. Dorfman is a local freelance writer who has written and reported for the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and the Boston Globe among many other nationally prominent broadcast, online and print media organizations. He is also a researcher for 670 The Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DanDorfman To read more of Daniel’s blogs click here.