A Bitter Cup of Coffee: Postscript

Special Guest Post by Doug Gladstone, author: A Bitter Cup of Coffee: How MLB & The Players Association Threw 874 Retirees A Curve, and panelist for The Albany Government Law Review Spring Symposium: Baseball & the Law: America’s National Pastime.

On Thursday, April 21, Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) announced, with much fanfare, that they would be giving all those men who played in “The Show” from 1947-1979, who had more than one day of service credit but less than four years, and who were therefore unable to qualify for MLB pensions, payments of up to $10,000 each for the next two years, depending on their respective lengths of service. The issue of these inactive, non-vested retirees was why I was on the “Legal State of Our National Pastime” panel at  Baseball & The Law: America’s National Pastime symposium held on Monday, April 11 in the Dean Alexander Moot Courtroom at Albany Law School.

As the author of the book widely credited with helping spur MLB to pay these men the monies they’re about to receive, I’ve naturally been asked what I thought about the announcement quite a bit over the last week or so. Admittedly, I have mixed emotions about it. Obviously, given the continuing national recession in this country, there are very few people nowadays who would turn up their noses at an extra $10,000 per year. But that pales in comparison to what some of these men could have received if they were just restored back into pension coverage.

Take Tom Bruno, for instance. A native of Chicago who pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays, Bruno finished his career having accrued three years and 161 days of service. He fell one game short of meeting the vesting requirement. One game. Based on a report which indicated that the average baseball retiree was making $30,000 in 2006, you know what a onetime retroactive check would be worth to a guy like Bruno?  If you answered, “$900,000,” you’ll realize why I’m not so impressed that he’s getting $10,000.

For the record, Major League Baseball is a $7 billion industry. Today’s player makes, on average, $3.3 million. You know what the most Tom Bruno ever made was? Only $65,000. These days, men like Ryan Howard ($125 million over five years), Matt Holiday ($120 million over seven years) and A-Rod ($27.5 million per year) are commanding what some would perceive are ridiculously obscene salaries. And part of the reason they’re able to earn that kind of money is due to men like Bruno, who frequently went without checks during work stoppages because he realized that a union is supposed to go to bat, not only for future players, but for past players as well.

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GLR Meets MLB: Albany Government Law Review’s spring symposium, Baseball and the Law: America’s National Pastimes

Written by Brady Begeal, Topics Chair, Albany Government Law Review Member

The Albany Government Law Review’s spring symposium entitled “Baseball and the Law: America’s National Pastimes” kicked off with a provocative lecture by Professor Paul Finkelman on steroids in baseball.  His presentation, “A Contrarian View of Steroids: What’s Wrong with Being All You Can Be?” challenged many mainstream opinions and viewpoints of modern baseball players who use steroids.

Professor Finkelman began by giving the audience his thoughts on the Barry Bonds perjury trial.  He explained that the government’s prosecution of Bonds is a selective prosecution, used to make a public example of Bonds.  Finkelman went on to argue that the use of steroids in baseball is not a new phenomenon, and that players have been using drugs and performance enhancers since baseball began.  Many of the most beloved Hall-of-Famers were known to abuse illegal substances, including steroids.  Finkelman presented little-known substance abuse facts about players like Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, Keith Hernandez, Pud Galvin, and Babe Ruth.

The lecture continued with Professor Finkelman asking the audience, “Is using steroids really ‘cheating?’”  Finkelman referenced the Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa time period as the “wild, wild west” where steroids weren’t even a violation in baseball.  He also explained that amphetamines called “greenies” were readily used and accepted in baseball as a way for players to play 160 games and not burn-out.  So, is it really fair to condemn McGwire, Sosa, and others, and to exclude them from the hall of fame?

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Baseball And The Law: America’s National Pastimes

The Albany Government Law Review will host the symposium “Baseball And The Law: America’s National Pastimes” on Monday, April 11, 2011, from 10:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Albany Law School.

The symposium will span a variety of topics, including stadium development, intellectual property rights in the age of new media, player representation and contract negotiation, the history and development of free agency, performance enhancing drug use, and labor negotiation and collective bargaining.

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American Needle, Inc. v. National Football League et al.: Should the NFL Be Considered a Single Entity?

Adriana S. de Armas, Managing Editor For Tech. & Dev., Albany Government Law Review Member

            On January 13, 2010, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the American Needle v. National Football League case.[1]  The two questions presented to the Supreme Court were:[2]

(1) Are the NFL and its member teams a single entity that is exempt from rule of reason claims under [§ 1] of the Sherman Act[3] [hereinafter § 1] simply because they cooperate in the joint production of NFL football games, without regard to their competing economic interests, their ability to control their own economic decisions, or their ability to compete with each other and the league? 

(2) Is the agreement of the NFL teams among themselves and with Reebok International, pursuant to which the teams agreed not to compete with each other in the licensing and sale of consumer headwear and clothing decorated with the teams’ respective logos and trademarks, and not to permit any licenses to be granted to Reebok’s competitors for a period of ten years, subject to a rule of reason claim under [§ 1] of the Sherman Act, where the teams own and control the use of their separate logos and trademarks and, but for their agreement not to, could compete with each other in the licensing and sale of Team Products?[4]

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