Baseball’s not-so-sweet “cup of coffee”: former Springfield Giants Bob Taylor still grateful for his meager “annuity”

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SPRINGFIELD – Bob Taylor wants people to know he’s thankful for the check in the mail. Before 2011, he didn’t even understand that.

The Springfield resident also doesn’t harbor an iota of resentment towards today’s Major League Baseball players, who earn multi-million dollar salaries as he accepts a pension – technically known as “unqualified retirement pension” – $ 2,500 per year.

“I can’t get mad at them. Players of my time, we got there a little too early or something, ”he says.

Next month Robert L. Taylor will be 77 years old. His 16-year professional career included the 1965 season with the Springfield Giants – the last year minor league baseball was played in the city.

Originally from Mississippi, the former outfielder now does landscaping and snow removal in Springfield, where he makes his home. If Taylor had played after 1980, when a new deal for former players had been negotiated, he would have received a much larger pension, even for doing far less work on the baseball field than he did.

Author Doug Gladstone shed light on the plight of older baseball retirees in a 2010 book titled “A Bitter Cup of Coffee: How MLB & The Players Association Threw 874 Retirees a Curve”. A “cup of coffee” is baseball slang for brief promotion to the big leagues.

The current eligibility requirement for retirement pay is 43 days on a major league roster whether or not a player is in a game. In Taylor’s day, it was four years. Taylor’s experience in the major leagues lasted for a year, in 1970 with the San Francisco Giants.

Gladstone says he still pushes for baseball to offer a better deal to its pre-1980 players. Not only are the retirement benefits meager, but even that will end when the player dies – as opposed to modern players, whose benefits will flow to family members, he said.

The book forced baseball to settle on the current arrangement in 2011, Gladstone says. Taylor said he was not aware of the book, but praised the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association, to which he pays around $ 25 a year for membership.

Many players who are entitled to payments, but do not belong to the association, do not receive them because it is not known where they are, Taylor said.

Bob Taylor of Springfield played baseball for the Springfield Giants and spent the 1970 season with the San Francisco Giants. It’s a photo of him playing in Japan. (Don Treeger / The Republican File Photo)

When Taylor starred in the San Francisco Channel, his path to the majors was blocked by an All-Star roster in front of him.

“I was behind the Alou brothers,” he told Felipe, Matty and Jesus. The Giants’ outfield also contained Willie Mays.

Taylor hit 0.190 in 84 batting appearances over 63 games. He had two home runs, one more than for Springfield in 1965.

Taylor’s salary was the rookie minimum of $ 12,000, and even that was higher than the previous year’s minimum of $ 8,500. The minimum for 2021 recruits will be $ 570,500.

“I played in Japan for three years (1973-75) and won more than I won here. I got to play on an all-star team with (legendary Japanese home hitter) Sadaharu Oh. I loved it in Japan, ”Taylor said.

Still, Taylor repeatedly insists that while her retirement pension doesn’t look like much, it helps and is appreciated. He reflects on how his 12 years in the US minor leagues are treated with indifference.

“If you worked in a factory for 10 years, you could earn $ 500 a month. You put 10 years in the minors, scratching and playing, and you get nothing, ”he said.

“But I’m not the type to push (Major League Baseball) for more. I leave that to the alumni association.

Without the association, “I wouldn’t get anything because they wouldn’t know where I am,” he said.

Taylor’s minor league career, which ended in 1978, reads like a map of North America. From 1962 to 1966 alone, he performed in nine towns and cities, from Springfield to Fresno, California. There is no glamor in minor league baseball even today, but there is hard work.

Bob taylor

Former professional baseball player Bob Taylor is in his Springfield home with a wall of his memorabilia. The bat he’s holding was used to hit his first major league home run in 1970 with the San Francisco Giants. (Don Treeger / The Republican)

“Pynchon Park was tailor-made for me,” he said, recalling the far outfield fences that limited the potential for a home run. “I didn’t hit a lot of home runs, but I got a lot of hits. “

So much, in fact, that Taylor still owns a 1965 Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. award as the team’s top hitter. Playing in a spacious home park and in a pitcher-dominated league, he produced 53 points in 125 games and hit .257.

The Giants’ team average was 0.211. Taylor has only hit one home run, but in 5,147 home plate appearances the whole team has only hit 29.

He says he was indebted to Curt Flood, who was about the same height as the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Taylor. The St. Louis Cardinals outfielder has proven that a small player can succeed, but Taylor’s admiration goes beyond that.

” It’s my idol. Curt Flood is the reason players get all the money they make today, ”Taylor said.

When Flood was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1970, he challenged baseball’s “reservation clause” which gave teams the right to their players in perpetuity. Players could be traded, but they couldn’t go on their own.

Flood lost his case in the United States Supreme Court, but it opened the door to other challenges, which ultimately led to the demise of the reservation clause. This, in turn, allowed players to earn huge salaries through free agency.

It came too late for Taylor, but he doesn’t regret a thing. He is grateful for what he gets, rather than ruminating on what he missed.

“That little $ 2,500 may not seem like much to some, but it helps when it comes in the mail,” he said. “Why, this check just arrived recently, and it certainly helps.”

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