Bob Sadowski pitched for the Red Sox and Milwaukee Braves. His career statistics need to be rechecked. There’s one big win missing from his totals, the day he showed a father and son how much they mattered. I learned of this kindness from Douglas Gladstone, who wrote A Bitter Cup of Coffee: How MLB and the Players Association Threw 874 Retirees a Curve
Gladstone focuses on the “gap” players, those who retired without having logged the then-required four seasons of service to qualify for a pension. Despite a new contract in 1980 that makes players from that year forward “vested” (pension eligible) after just 43 days on a Major League roster, and just ONE DAY to qualify for medical insurance, the agreement was not retroactive. The original pre-1980 group of 874 still get no monthly payment. Sadowski is among the ignored, those who want the pension both for support, and for a validation from MLB that their efforts mattered.
Gladstone wrote me:
“There’s a delightful story, and one that’s very instructive, in the book told by Bob Sadowski, who now resides in Sharpsburg, Georgia. He tells of the time that a fan from Evanston, Illinois wrote him requesting an autograph for his son, and even included a $10 check:”
‘I looked this fellow up in the phone book and called the guy and he couldn’t believe it,” he says, proudly. “He said, ‘Mister Sadowski, what an honor.’ And I said, ‘Mister, I’m the one who should be honored that you thought so much of me of to want your autograph for your boy. That’s payment enough for me.’ And he says, ‘But I already sent you a check.’ And I told him, I already sent it back.'”
Author Gladstone’s stories are both shocking yet uplifting. Shocking in that baseball has turned its back on too many players who gave their hearts to the game. Nonetheless, these former players still feel a grateful obligation to fans and collectors. They know that neither group was responsible for depriving them of a pension. That’s enough to make outraged fans stand up and cheer for these forgotten men.
Gladstone has done more than write a book. He’s trying to right a wrong while bettering lives. Check out his website for more examples of how his book could help restore the game’s conscience.
Tomorrow: learn of a former teammate’s letter to Brooks Robinson, a plea still awaiting a response.