MLB, MLBPA announce expanded financial assistance programs for former Negro Leagues players

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred speaks to members of the media following an owners' meeting, Thursday, June 15, 2023, at MLB headquarters in New York. (AP)

NEW YORK — Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association announced they are expanding existing financial assistance programs to support living Negro Leagues players.

Players who played in fewer than four seasons in the Negro Leagues will receive an annual financial benefit based on their time in the Negro Leagues, the organizations said in a release Wednesday. A committee of MLB and MLBPA officials will establish the eligibility criteria for the program.

MLB said approximately 50 additional living players will benefit financially.

Negro Leagues players “are an important part of the history of our sport who persevered because of their love of the game despite the discrimination and segregation they faced,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said. “As we prepare to celebrate their legacy in June at Rickwood Field, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to further recognize their contributions.”

MLB is planning for Willie Mays, who turned 93 this month, to attend a game on June 20 between San Francisco and St. Louis being played in his honour at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama. The 10,800-seat stadium, opened in 1910, is the oldest professional ballpark in the U.S. and was home to the Birmingham Black Barons from 1924-60. Mays, an Alabama native, began his professional career with the team in 1948.

MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark said while the adjustment is “long overdue, it is gratifying that these former players who meant so much to our game will finally receive a retirement benefit to help them through their senior years. This is another example of players using their collective voice to bring about progress.”

“The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association is proud to be an integral part of this initiative,” said Dan Foster, CEO of the MLB Players Alumni Association.

The program is intended to complement the Major League Baseball Players Pension Plan and the existing non-vested benefits programs for former players, both jointly administered by MLB and the MLBPA.

Additional financial benefits are available to Negro Leagues players from the Baseball Assistance Team, an independent nonprofit designed to help those in need of emergency financial, medical and other assistance.

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