MLB - The Money Trail

Pensionless Ballplayers (Part 3): The Story Of Tommy Joe Moore, NY Mets

This is the third in a series on pensionless ballplayers written by guest columnist, Doug Gladstone. This one tells the story of former Met, Tommy Moore.

Next month will mark the one-year anniversary of former New York Mets hurler Tommy Joe Moore’s death at 69. Moore, who was a pit boss at the Morongo Casino, in Cabazon, California, passed away of lymphoma on November 16, 2017.

Tommy Joe Moore, New York Mets Photo Credit: SABR.org
Tommy Joe Moore, New York Mets Photo Credit: SABR.org

There is more than a little irony in that since I have long contended that the business of baseball is the pits, especially with regards to pensionless ballplayers.

See, though Major League Baseball (MLB) and the union representing today’s players, the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA), are rolling in money — according to one post-1980 player, the union’s pension and welfare fund is valued at more than $3.5 billion, while MLB recently announced that its revenue was up 325 percent from 1992 and that it has made $500 million since 2015. What’s more, the average value of the each of the 30 clubs is up 19 percent from 2016 to $1.54 billion —  the league and the union are victimizing pensionless ballplayers like Moore, who no longer can fight for himself.

Tommy Moore, who was married four times and had four children, as well as three stepchildren by his fourth wife, Sharon, played for the Mets in 1972 and 1973, the St. Louis Cardinals in 1975 and the Seattle Mariners in 1975. In 42 career appearances, all but three of them in relief, he pitched 88 and one-third innings and recorded two victories.

Yet, because he played before 1980 and hadn’t accrued the necessary four years of service credit needed to be vested in the MLB pension plan, he wasn’t getting a pension, joining a host of other pensionless ballplayers.

As a result of a vesting change that occurred during the Memorial Day Weekend, players who accrued at least 43 game days of service after 1980 are currently guaranteed an MLB pension. The league also averted a strike by agreeing that, going forward, all that a player needed to be eligible to buy into the league’s health insurance plan was one game day of service on an active MLB roster.

But men like Moore, who accrued between 43 game days of service but less than four years of service, were left out in the cold. Regrettably, the union forgot to request retroactivity for these pre-1980 men.

In April 2011, men like Moore began receiving $625 for every 43 game days they spent on an active MLB roster, up to 16 quarters. However, unlike a real pension, which can be passed on to a spouse or other designated beneficiary or loved one, that payment is discontinued when the man dies.

As a result, when the non-qualified payments are disbursed every February, Sharon doesn’t receive a plug nickel.

Meanwhile, if you’re vested, the maximum pension is $220,000.

The irony should be lost on nobody: Moore’s family is now being treated just as badly as he was.

A freelance magazine writer, Douglas J. Gladstone authored the 2010 book, “A Bitter Cup of Coffee.” His website is located at www.gladstonewriter.com

Editor’s Note: The first two installments on the plight of pensionless ballplayers can be found on the Reflections On Baseball website.

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