Wednesday, May 1, 2024

A guest post from author Douglas J. Gladstone centering on Scipio Spinks--one of 517 pre-1980 MLB retirees currently ineligible for a pension


Because of all the batters he could fan, it is perhaps only fitting that Chicago native Scipio Spinks comes from the Windy City.

Indeed, during one memorable contest, Spinks and future Cincinnati Reds hurler Gary Nolan, combined to strike out 37 batters in a Class A Northern League game in 1966.

Drafted by the Houston Astros, only modest success followed Spinks in “The Show”: in 35 career games, including those he appeared in with the St. Louis Cardinals, in 1972 and 1973, he won seven games and threw seven complete games.

Though he has no regrets about his time playing the game, Spinks, who once served as a double for the late Louis Gossett, Jr., in a movie about Hall of Famer Satchel Paige entitled Don’t Look Back, is annoyed about one very important thing, namely, that he doesn’t receive a Major League Baseball (MLB) pension.

Spinks, who turns years 77-years-old in July, is one of 517 retirees being hosed out of pensions by the league and the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA), which is the union that represents both current players and minor leaguers. All these men receive are yearly non-qualified retirement stipends of $718.75 for every 43 game days on an active MLB roster, up to a maximum payment of $11,500.

Due to vesting rule changes that averted a strike in 1980, the players' union was offered the opportunity to give its members the following sweetheart deal: one game day of service credit to buy into the league's umbrella health insurance plan, and 43 game days of service for a pension. However, the deal forgot to include the men like Spinks, who played prior to 1980.

Fast forward 44 years, and neither MLB nor the MLBPA want to retroactively restore these non-vested men into pension coverage; instead, taxes are taken out of their non-qualified retirement payment, which cannot be passed on to a surviving spouse or designated beneficiary.

So when Spinks dies, the payment he is currently receiving is not passed on to any of his loved ones, including his third wife, Jeanette, or the daughter he has from his first marriage, Terri Lynn.

Meanwhile, the maximum IRS pension a vested retiree can receive is $275,000. And the minimum salary for the 26th man riding the pines this year is $740,000.

Though Spinks may not be looking back at his career with regret, he is focused on getting the MLBPA to right what he feels is a significant wrong

“SOMETHING needs to be done,” he told me via email last year. “Let’s do something about it, I’m tired of this bullshit with the players’ association.”

With the average MLB salary last reported to be $4.5 million , and with MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark reportedly receiving a yearly salary of $4.25 million, it is Spinks’ contention that the union is forgetting to take care of the men like him, who helped grow the game by enduring labor stoppages and going without paychecks all so free agency could occur. After all, unions are supposed to help hard working women and men in this country get a fair shake in life.

Spinks has given a good part of his life to baseball. According to his LinkedIn page, he’s currently the head coach at the University of Houston-Downtown. And for six years he served as a scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

From where I sit, it’s time the national pastime looks back at what Spinks has given to it and remedy this injustice once and for all.

Douglas J. Gladstone (@GLADSTONEWRITER) is the author of “A Bitter Cup of Coffee: How MLB & the Players’ Association Threw 874 Retirees a Curve.” 







  1. Doug, great article on Scipio .We were teammates at Wichita.

    1. I’m glad you like it. Idk if you played in the show, but I hope you email the SOBs at the union ( and let them know how you feel about this blight on the game. Ty for your kind words.

  2. This is sad and wrong. It's one thing to fight your employer (or former employer) for what is right... but it's another level to fight them and the union that represents you. Best of luck to Spinks and the other 516 former players.