San Diego’s John Balaz is one of 500 retirees w/o an MLB pension.
A native of Toronto, Ontario, Canada who attended Point Loma High School and later, San Diego Community College, Balaz, who turned 68 last year, was an outfielder who spent parts of the 1974 and 1975 seasons with the California Angels and the 1976 season in the Red Sox’ organization. He also spent part of the 1977 season with the San Diego Padres, in Triple-A Hawaii. At the age of 26, he put up a .290/.362/.539 batting line in 120 games. He drove in 97 runs and smashed 26 homers for both the Padres’ and Dodgers’ triple-A teams.
He appeared in a total of 59 career games in the majors for the Angels and came up to the plate 162 times, collecting 39 hits, including eight doubles, one triple, and two home runs. Balaz had 16 runs batted in and also scored 14 runs.
The rules for receiving MLB pensions changed in 1980. Balaz and other men do not get pensions because they didn’t accrue four years of service credit. That was what ballplayers who played between 1947-1979 needed to be eligible for the pension plan.
Instead, they all receive non-qualified retirement payments based on a complicated formula that had to have been calculated by an actuary. In brief, for every quarter of service a man had accrued, he’d get $625. Four quarters (one year) totaled $2,500. Sixteen quarters (four years) amounts to the maximum, $10,000. And that payment is before taxes are taken out.
What’s more, the payment cannot be passed on to a spouse or designated beneficiary. So Balaz’s loved ones, including his wife, Bonnie, and his two children, Lauren and Justin, won’t receive that payment when he dies. These men are also not eligible to be covered under the league’s umbrella health insurance plan. The family resides on Valata Street in San Diego.
To date, the MLBPA has been loathe to divvy up anymore of the collective pie. Even though Forbes recently reported that the current players’ pension and welfare fund is valued at $2.7 billion, MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark — the first former player to ever hold that position, by the way — has never commented about these non-vested retirees, many of whom are filing for bankruptcy at advanced ages, having banks foreclose on their homes, and are so sickly and poor that they cannot afford adequate health care coverage.
They are being penalized for playing the game they loved at the wrong time.
Freelance magazine writer.
Advocate for MLB players rights