Ex-Players Take Baseball to Court
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) _ Claiming that for years they haven’t received royalties due them, hundreds of aging former players took major league baseball to court today.
Lawyer Ronald Katz said the class action lawsuit involves 384 former players, many now in their 70s and 80s. It names major league baseball and its marketing arm, Major League Baseball Properties Inc.
He said the case concerns pooled royalties the players think they should have received for the use of their names and likenesses for retail products like trading cards and other projects, including films.
Many of the players signed agreements which entitled them to royalties, but the checks they received averaged less than $200 a year and the players think they are owed more.
``The documents speak for themselves,″ Katz said today in his opening statement to jurors and Alameda County Superior Court Judge Demetrios Agretelis.
Katz said Pete Coscarart, a former Brooklyn Dodger and a lead plaintiff in the case, agreed to have his image marketed in 1994. He was stunned when his first annual check amounted to just $174.
``He is just shocked that the amount is so small,″ Katz said, claiming Coscarart was stonewalled by major league baseball in his attempts to obtain an accounting.
``They knew what they were doing. They just didn’t think the likes of Mr. Coscarart could do anything (about it),″ Katz said.
In his opening statement, defense lawyer Marty Glick said that Major League Baseball Properties didn’t underpay former players or try to hide its accounting. He blamed the size of the payments on a lack of demand.
Coscarart, expected to testify in the trial, played for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1938-46 and had a career average of .243. After his playing days were over, he worked in real estate.
Despite two heart attacks, Coscarart, 84, has been an active crusader for former players, who, like himself, never received a pension.