Charitable fund to pay pensions

NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball will provide more than $1
million in pensions to former Negro Leagues players through a new
charitable program.

The fund will benefit 27 players, all of whom played after
Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier in 1947.

"I am pleased that we are able to come to the aid of former
Negro League players who are in need," commissioner Bud Selig said
Monday in a statement.

Major League Baseball and the Baseball Assistance Team will
handle the program.

Baseball set up a program in 1997 to provide pensions to Negro
Leagues players before 1948.

The new fund will benefit additional players who spent parts of
at least four seasons in the Negro Leagues, starting before 1958.

The agreement was first reported by The Washington Post. Players will have the option of getting $833.33 per month for four years -- a rate of $10,000 per year -- or $375 a month for life.

"That's great. Good for them," said former Negro Leagues player Buck O'Neil, chairman of the Negro Leagues museum in Kansas City. "They deserved to get something."

In March, Selig told Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., that a proposal would be made to cover players left out of a Negro Leagues pension fund created in 1997. That agreement set up annual pensions of $7,500 to $10,000 for players who spent a total of four years in the majors or Negro Leagues, including at least one day in the big leagues, after 1947.

The players affected by the new agreement did not play in the
majors. Nelson had said these players did not get a full chance to
make it because, even after Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers,
not every team was integrated until the Boston Red Sox became the
last club with a black player in 1959.

"Not every team thought it needed a black ballplayer right
away," O'Neil said. "The New York Yankees didn't until they got
Elston Howard. The Red Sox didn't, either."

Howard began playing for the Yankees in 1955. Pumpsie Green joined the Red Sox four years later.

"The older guys before Jackie, they never had a chance. Josh
Gibson, myself, others. Baseball was segregated," O'Neil said.
"The guys after Jackie, they at least had the opportunity to get
signed in the major leagues. Some of those guys in the Negro
Leagues after Jackie, they weren't good enough to play in the

"But they still deserved something," he said. "All right for
them that they're getting a pension."