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Doug Gladstone
New Payment Plan for MLB Old-Timers Hits Florida Widow in Gap

Former Cincinnati Red Frank Fanovich recently passed away. His wife of 65 years, Yolanda, still resides in New Smyrna Beach.
Fanovich played between 1947-1979, when you needed four years to be eligible for a Major League Baseball pension. Since 1980, all you’ve needed is 43 days, and only one game for health insurance.
Because Fanovich and nearly 900 other men weren't eligible for an annuity, MLB and the players union threw them a bone last April. They announced with much fanfare that men such as Fanovich would get two payments based on their service credit: $625 per quarter of service, or a maximum of $10,000.
These annuities were extended to 2016 in the collective bargaining agreement announced two days before Thanskgiving.
Fanovich died Aug. 27. Why is that date important? Mrs. Fanovich says her late spouse, in a hospice the last week of his life, was cogent enough to understand that MLB had at long last paid him something for his service credit. His check arrived Aug. 26.
In two seasons -- 1949 with the Reds and 1953 with the Philadelphia Athletics -- Fanovich appeared in 55 games. For argument’s sake, let's say he was on an active roster for 1 1/2 years, which means he would have been entitled to about $3,750. If credited with 1 3/4 years of service, he’d have been due $4,375. A full two years would have been worth $5,000.
Yolanda Fanovich got the second check in early February and deposited it.
Should MLB and the union have the gall to make her return it? If the answer is "yes," then MLB and the union come across as callous, unfeeling louts. If the answer is "no," then for all intents and purposes, Yolanda Fanovich -- as Frank's designated beneficiary -- is getting his money.
But payments to designated beneficiaries weren't part of the league-union agreement.
Take away the money and the league and union add injury to a recently widowed woman whose husband not only defended our nation's liberties during World War II, but also with the New York City police force, from which he didn’t claim a pension. But if MLB lets her keep the second check, the league is opening its doors to prospective lawsuits from other widows or children in similar situations.
Either way, the league and the union face a no-win predicament.
To paraphrase Oliver Hardy, how's that for a nice mess MLB and the union have gotten themselves into?

Doug Gladstone is the author of  A Bitter Cup of Coffee; How MLB & The Players Association Threw 874 Retirees A Curve, published by Word Association Publishers in April 2010. 

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by Dr. Radut.