Why Doesn’t Retired Padres’ Infielder Mike Champion Receive a MLB Pension?

Mike Champion
  • In three seasons with the San Diego Padres, from 1976-1978, Mike Champion appeared in 193 games, scored 42 runs, came up to bat 598 times, collected 137 hits, including 16 doubles, eight triples, two home runs, and had 49 runs batted in.

A native of Montgomery, Alabama, Robert Michael Champion attended Foothill High School, in Santa Ana, California.

He turned 62 this past February. Champion and 500 other men are not being treated as champions by major league baseball as they do not get pensions, because they didn’t accrue four years of service credit.

Four years of service time is what ball players who played between 1947–1979 needed to total in order for their pension plan to be valid. Those who do not meet the standards, 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 were taken out.

When the player dies, the payment is not permitted to be passed on to a designated beneficiary, like a spouse or other loved one.

And the player is not covered under the MLB’s health care umbrella coverage plan, either.

By contrast, a player who played AFTER 1980 is eligible for health coverage after one game day. And he’s eligible for a pension after 43 game days. AND the payment can be passed on to a loved one or designated recipient.

The maximum pension a vested retiree can receive is $210,000, according to the IRS.

Even the minimum pension a post-1980 player (with eligibility) is currently receiving is a reported $34,000.

In light of Forbes’ recent report that the players’ pension and welfare fund is valued at $2.7 billion, I think it is reprehensible that the union is against taking better care of its 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 insurance coverage.

Is this how the MLB takes care of their own? Mike Champion receives a fraction of what he should be entitled to. Players of his generation fought for the right that the modern player reaps. It is time to take notice of these stories and do something about it.

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Doug Gladstone

Freelance magazine writer.

Advocate for MLB players rights


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