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Grilli, Erardi among players denied MLB pensions

Pair look to help former players they feel were wronged

Steve Grilli, right, in a photo with Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller, who passed away in December 2010. Grilli, along with Liverpool native Greg Erardi, are two of more than 1,400 former Major League Baseball players seeking pensions from the Players’ Association denied to them because their careers finished before 1980, and the Collective Bargaining Agreement struck at that time did not make the pension retroactive.

Steve Grilli, right, in a photo with Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller, who passed away in December 2010. Grilli, along with Liverpool native Greg Erardi, are two of more than 1,400 former Major League Baseball players seeking pensions from the Players’ Association denied to them because their careers finished before 1980, and the Collective Bargaining Agreement struck at that time did not make the pension retroactive.

But Miller forgot to make the ratification retroactive, leaving every player who recorded their last MLB appearance between 1947 and 1979 enraged, underpaid and out in the cold – literally, for some.

“Marvin Miller said when they were renegotiating that they forgot to put us in there,” Grilli said. “They forgot. He admits it. Had they (included us) during that, it was such a small bargaining tool at the time, it would’ve been no questions asked.”

While Grilli and Erardi live comfortable lifestyles, many were not so lucky to have college degrees to fall back on. Grilli is an insurance broker and owner of Change of Pace, a bar and restaurant on Grant Boulevard, while Erardi, recently retired after 16 years working for Salomon Brothers Inc., an investment bank on Wall Street.

Most of their less-educated contemporaries did not have the foresight to plan fallback careers.

“Shame on Major League Baseball,” Grilli said. “That’s all I can say. Shame on Major League Baseball.”

A 2003 discrimination lawsuit and the publication of Douglas J. Gladstone’s “A Bitter Cup of Coffee: How MLB and The Players Association Threw 874 Retirees a Curve,” in April, 2010, pressured MLB Commissioner Bud Selig into providing some of these players an annual annuity of up to $10,000 for five years starting in April 2011 ($625 per 43 game days of service).

However, what appeared as a kind and thoughtful gesture in press releases had its backlashes. Those who did not record at least 43 days of service, including Erardi, were excluded, the annuity does not include health insurance or a designated beneficiary payment and close to 20 percent of each check goes to tax deductions.

All that aside, the handout is still less than $200 per week, maximum. So Grilli will receive just $5,625 per year and $28,125 total (before taxes) for his 2 1/4 years of service. The average post-2006 retiree makes more than $160,000 in that span.

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