Driving through Arizona to catch some spring training games, Darcy Fast says via his cell phone of baseball's annuity plan for the lost boys of summer like him, "I don't think it's fair."
A Chicago Cubs pitcher whose darts lived up to his last name in 1967-68, Fast says baseball and the players union pay him about $2,000 a year, after taxes and through 2016.
"I really think it's basically a token more for goodwill for Major League Baseball than it is to really help the ballplayers in need," the 65-year-old says of the payment plan at the center of today's feature "The Lost Boys of Summer." "I don't necessarily consider myself in real need, but . . . there are players who really are not making it."
More than the yearly payments, the 65-year-old believes those guys should gain access to the MLB medical plan, something that was more critical when he began taking this issue on years ago. Since the fight began, many players from his era are now old enough to qualify for Medicare and Medicaid.
"I just think that's the greatest need for people our age, and that has just not come about," Fast says. "I just don't think it's right you can play one day in Major League Baseball (from 1980 on) to receive health benefits or play 47 days to become fully vested into the Major League Baseball pension" while players with equal or more service from his era are bound by longer lengths of time required under previous union contracts.
"You compare that to when I was playing ball, and you have to have five years of Major League Baseball service, then it went to four years through the collective bargaining agreements from that time. They have never brought the group of us into that picture.
"There was not even a disabled list when we played. Guys played hurt. They got cortisone shots or did anything to stay in the game because they felt someone was coming to take their position. Now, there is a disabled list. I'm not saying that's bad. There are all these things going on today to take care of players. So why not at least help those guys from the era I played in? They helped get the game to where it is today, and they've basically been forgotten."
Pulling into the ballpark, Fast mentions, "I love baseball. I'm going to a game today. I've talked with ballplayers today, and they can't really believe it hasn't been taken care of. Basically, it is something that has not been talked about that much with current ballplayers."
Fast notes that every spring, a union rep visits each team and its player rep to give overviews of the current contract and grievances. "I've talked with friends," he says, "and they can't even remember [the pension issue] being discussed once."
He has the ears of many in today's clubhouses not only because of his baseball career or due to his remaining active with the Major League Baseball Alumni Association. Fast left the game in his prime for the pulpit.
Drafted as a first baseman by the New York Yankees in 1965, he went to Warner Pacific College in Portland, Oregon, instead. Drafted again in 1967, this time as a pitcher by the Chicago Cubs, he signed.
After pitching 30 games in the minors, the lefty was called up to the bigs his second rookie league season and went on to appear in eight games for the Cubs in 1968. He still looks back fondly at his only MLB start, against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Manager Leo Durocher yanked him in the fourth inning, but Chicago went on to win that half of a twilight double-header.
Fast, who saw himself as a starter, clashed with "Leo the Lip," but the biggest complication to the pitcher's pro career was the draft--not for the MLB but the Vietnam War. To protect the draft-age hurler, the Cubs had him enroll in a Pacific Northwest college near the team's Triple-A minor league club in Tacoma, Washington, so he could get a student exemption from military service.
During the final games of 1969 season, which had the Cubs ahead by 8.5 games in August, sportswriters covering the minors suggested Fast be brought up to preserve the arms of Chicago's starting rotation heading into the playoffs. But efforts failed to get Fast enlisted with a Chicago-area National Guard unit, to satisfy the military service requirement, before the season ended. Sportswriters dubbed the young player "The Missing Cub."
The Cubbies, who had still led the East after 105 games, famously collapsed. "The Miracle Mets" wound up winning the division, the National League pennant and the World Series in '69. "It's one of those great what-ifs," Fast says of whether he could have helped avoid the disaster.
He wasn't seeing much more of a future in baseball anyway. Fast wound up moving on to the San Diego Padres and their minor-league system, but by 1972 he was done. Since high school, he'd experienced "a deeper calling in my life." Realizing his passion for serving God was stronger than it was for baseball--and it would have to be the opposite were he ever to succeed on the mound--Fast retired.
"I never regretted it a moment," says Fast, who wrote the book The Missing Cub about his unique experiences, which included serving as the longtime pastor at Centralia Community Church of God in Washington state. He recently retired after 32 years.
Fast does not agree with other former ballplayers interviewed for the lost boys feature who were hopeful about baseball extending and possibly even expanding their retirement assistance after 2016.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
"I don't think so," he says. "Bud Selig just came out, under pressure, and finally made this concession along with the Major League Baseball Players Association and basically said it was the right thing to do. They just gave us a token so they could say we've been taken care of.
"If baseball waits another 20 years, they won't have anyone to take care of. It will not be a problem for them anymore, and that's really sad because a lot of men out there are hurting. They have helped make the game what it is today.
"You know, somebody's got to serve up the homeruns to the stars."
Bottom line: Darcy Rae Fast ... Born March 10, 1947, in Dallas, Oregon (age 65) ... High school: North Thurston in Lacey, Washington ... College: Warner Pacific College in Portland, Oregon ...Pitcher ... 6-foot-3 ... 195 lbs. ... Bats/throws: left ... Drafted June 8, 1965, by the New York Yankees in the seventh round of the 1965 amateur draft, but he did not sign ... Drafted in the sixth round of the 1967 amateur draft by the Chicago Cubs, who signed him June 9, 1967 ... MLB debut on June 15, 1968, with the Cubs ... Final MLB appearance Aug. 28, 1968, with the Cubs ... Innings: 10 ... Hits: 8 ... Earned runs: 6 ... Wins/losses: 0-1 ... ERA: 5.40 ... Career highlight: striking out 10 batters in 10 innings. (Source: Baseball-reference.com)