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The Hall of Famer was so disgusted with baseball's pension plan that he boycotted this year's induction ceremonies at Cooperstown. And he resents that in the recent collective bargaining agreement with the owners, the active players didn't cut oldtimers a better deal.
Under the new contract, the owners will provide the players $32.7 million in annual pension contributions. Exactly how the money is to be distributed has not been worked out, but it's expected that 10-year veterans who retired in 1975 or later will collect either $68,212 or $90,000 a year—the last sum is the maximum pension benefit allowable under federal law—starting at age 62. "Modern players carried the latest gains back to 1975 and didn't have to," says Eugene Orza, a Major League Players' Association attorney. "If you retired that year, you'll get as much as Mike Schmidt will when he quits."
But what about players who retired before 1975? Older veterans stand to get a considerably smaller slice of the pension pie. For example, Wynn, who helped start the retirement fund in 1947, went into the plan at age 52 and has been receiving about $11,000 a year in benefits. The Players Association figures that oldtimers like Wynn will now get a 40% to 50% increase.
"Modern ballplayers tell us, 'Too bad, you should have invested better,' " fumes Wynn. "But on salaries of 10 thousand to 15 thousand dollars a year, how many investments could you make?" Under the new labor contract, Wynn says, "They could at least triple the pension for old guys and give us hospitalization." That's another sore point with oldtimers; retired players are required to make a contribution, and Wynn says hard times have forced some of his contemporaries to drop out of the hospitalization plan.
Jim Beattie of the Seattle Mariners, a member of the joint player-owner pension committee, thinks a lot more could be done for long-retired players. "We want to increase widows' benefit," he says, "and get deficiencies worked out equitably for the older players if we can."
Wynn isn't griping about all benefits, however. "Hell, we don't need a dental plan," he says. "Our teeth have already fallen out."