Dick Baney and the Other Lost Boys of Summer

Even after the Tustin resident helped embarrass Major League Baseball into helping retired ballplayers such as himself, he's still not happy, and he has plenty of company

Clyde started 18 games that season, going 4-8, and 21 the next, for a 3-9 record, but after an opening loss in 1975, he developed arm problems and spent most of the next three seasons in the minors. He was traded to Cleveland before the 1978 season, when he went 8-11 after 25 starts. He started nine games in '79 before being demoted to the minors. Clyde was traded back to Texas after the 1979 season, but then he was released before opening day of 1980. He was just 37 days short of the four years required to be fully vested in the pension.

Asked if he was removed from the pensions committee for asking too many tough questions, Clyde strikes a diplomatic tone.

"The answer that I was given was I wasn't renewed," he says in a slow Texas drawl. "I was not told directly it had anything to do with that, so anything I have to say about that is pure conjecture. But a little bit on the funny side of that is we get these things approved, we are part of the inner committee that got it approved, and then myself and Gary Neibauer are no longer needed."

He remains "fearful" about non-vested retirees no longer having a voice on the committee.

"I don't mean to sound ugly or whatever, but for 25 years, nothing happened," says Clyde. "Sometimes you have to step on toes to get things done, but I don't think anybody I asked questions of acted as if I were out of line."

Clyde doesn't believe today's players understand that those from his era stood up for them decades ago, bringing free agency to the game and beating the reserve clause. And, he says, he's worried about his baseball brothers who are "in sadder shape than I am. I'm sorry they did not get completely what they wanted to get."

All he can pin his hopes on is future negotiations. Clyde believes Players Association executive director Michael Weiner has his heart in the right place. But it still bothers him that hundreds of players passed away before anything was done.

"All those guys wanted was to be remembered."

* * *

Gladstone really wishes someone else had written his book—say a George Will or Buzz Bissinger, anyone with more juice and a bigger built-in audience to shame baseball into doing more for the retirees. Having written articles for Baseball Digest, the Chicago Sun-Times and the San Diego Jewish Times, Gladstone took up the cause for his first book because many of the protagonists were his heroes growing up.

One respected baseball writer who would not have been with him was the late Doug Pappas, who wrote prolifically about the game's economics and often accused Major League Baseball and its media sycophants of spreading false information.

Days before passing away in May 2004, Pappas wrote on Doug's Business of Baseball Weblog that the retirees "have no case," that "their lawyers are an embarrassment to the legal profession," and that it was ridiculous short-timers should receive $10,000 per year for life, plus comprehensive medical benefits. "With all due respect," Pappas stated, "that's like a file clerk who worked for Google for two months in 2001 claiming a right to share in the proceeds of its IPO."

"Unfortunately, members of the Fourth Estate have been indifferent," says Gladstone. "There has been a ton of press, plenty of articles written, but they have not captured the frustration these men still feel."

Gladstone wants to see the moral outrage he and the lost boys of baseball feel, so these stories resonate better with readers. They know an average of 44 players has died every year since the suit was filed in 2002, a death rate that accelerates as the men age.

"I've heard a lot of players, who are not Young Turks, say that if they had youth on their side, they would fight harder," Gladstone says. "The bottom line is Major League Baseball does not have to legally do anything on behalf of these men. They do not have to negotiate with non-vested players. The union does not have to offer them the duty of fair representation. They don't have to be legal advocates."

However, he believes baseball "opened a Pandora's Box" when it awarded the benefits to the Negro Leaguers. "You can't give benefits to one group that, strictly speaking, did not have a contractual history with the league, then hose guys such as Dick Baney, David Clyde and all the others that did have a legal, contractual history," says Gladstone.

It's the stories of these players struggling in their golden years that haunt Gladstone. Guys such as Jim Qualls, a utility man who as a rookie with the Cubs in 1969 broke up Mets Hall of Famer Tom Seaver's bid for a perfect game. Now 65, Qualls cannot pay his health premiums and recently received a pink slip from his job, which offered no pension.

Jimmy Driscoll, a middle infielder with the A's and Rangers from '70-'72, used his small stipend to pay his home heating bill in North Conway, New Hampshire.

Or ex-players such as Jimmy Hutto. He has had a stroke and surgery for a cerebral aneurism, and he suffers from extreme arthritis in both knees. From his home in Pensacola, Florida, the former Baltimore Oriole and Philadelphia Phillie outfielder and first baseman laughs and adds, "Other than that, I feel great."

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But that's not the point, he says—fairness is. And because he has been so vocal, he routinely fields phone calls from sick and financially strapped retirees who now hope he can produce the ultimate late-inning relief.

 
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