Retired baseball players cry foul over lack of MLB pension

Aaron Pointer may be best known as the big brother of the hit singing group, the Pointer Sisters.

But the retired professional baseball player is seeking recognition of another kind that he says is long overdue.

Pointer endured virulent racism when he was signed to a minor league baseball contract in North Carolina in 1961.

Now he and hundreds of other retired players are crying foul over a Major League Baseball policy that denies them a full pension.

If the Grammy-winning Pointer Sisters were all about the music, their big brother’s devotion lay on a field of dreams.

“Baseball,” he said. “Baseball has always been my thing.”

When Pointer couldn’t get a baseball scholarship, he went to the University of San Francisco on one for basketball.

“But I also played baseball because that was my first love,” said Pointer.

When he was just 19 years old, his dream of playing professionally came true when the former Houston Colt 45s signed him.

“And I got a little signing bonus when I signed to play pro baseball in 1961 of $10,000,” said Pointer, “which was more than my father made in four years as a minister in Oakland.”

But that silver lining was soon tarnished by the stain of racism on a minor league team in Salisbury, North Carolina.

“There was one time I did have to call the security because there was a kid outside the right field fence in a ball club who had climbed a tree and was shooting at me with a B.B. gun,” he said.  “At me. And I said to myself and later on I said, ‘God, if that had been something other than a B.B. gun, I mean I could be not here today.”

Aaron Pointer played professional baseball for nine seasons, more than half of them in the minor leagues, including two seasons at Cheney stadium.

In fact, he had a 402 batting average his rookie season in the minors, a record that still stands.

Yet when it comes to compensation after he retired, major league baseball will consider only the three seasons he spent in the majors.

And he is not alone.

“There are approximately 600 men like Aaron,” declared Doug Gladstone.

The upstate New York author wrote the book, “A Bitter Cup of Coffee: How MLB and the Players Association Threw 874 Retirees a Curve,” in 2010 calling out Major League Baseball.

He says the retired players include several Latino and Black players including Billy Murphy of University Place.

A few years after his book came out, the MLB relented and offered the retired players a nominal payment for time served.

But they wouldn’t call it a pension. And minor league play didn’t count toward it.

“Major league baseball is an $11.5 billion industry,” said Gladstone. “Each team is worth approximately $1.9 billion.  And it is deplorable that today’s players don’t recognize the contribution of the men like Aaron Pointer who came before them.”

After he left baseball in the 1970s, Pointer became the first black football referee in the PAC 10, only the 12th black ref in the NFL, all while he worked for Tacoma Parks and Recreation.

Still, he feels betrayed by Major League Baseball.

“We’re just talking about the bare bones minimum,” insists Pointer, “something for those guys that don’t have insurance, that are going bankrupt because they can’t pay their doctor bills, and can’t pay their rent. Just something to say ‘thank you.’”

It is a message he hopes those still living his dream finally hear.