In a news conference held in Tampa this morning, Major League baseball and Florida U.S. Senator Bill Nelson announced that a group of ex- Negro League Baseball players who were banned from the Major Leagues a half century ago will receive pension benefits totally over a million dollars.

Under a previous plan for Negro League veterans created in 1997, Major League Baseball In 1997, granted a lifetime benefit of $10,000 a year to players with a combined 4 years of service in Major League Baseball or the Negro Leagues prior to 1947...That year, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier playing with the Brooklyn Dodgers.....But Senator Nelson said this new plan will compensate players from 1947 thru 1957, which was the year when all baseball teams were integrated. (roll tape#1 o.q."because of segregation") 27 former Negro League players will now have the option of receiving $833.33 a month for four years - for a total of $40,000 - or $375 a month for life.

Today's announcement was a victory for Former Kansas City Monarchs Pitcher Bob Mitchell, who has spearheaded a movement to get benefits for Former Negro League Players from 1948 until 1960, when the Negro Leagues folded. He contacted Senator Nelson back in 2001, who subsequently initiated contact with Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. ...

Although Mitchell was obviously pleased, he said he regrets he wasn't able to secure benefits - at least not for now, for players who played less than 4 years in the Negro Leagues(roll tape#2 o.q."who don't have 4 years")

And Mitchell said that getting these benefits now is crucial.....He says that of the original baseball players who were awarded pension back in 1997, half of them have passed away since they were granted the money (roll tape#3 o.q.'realize anything at all")

Lucy Calautti is from the Office of Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig's Office. She explained why it's taken 3 years from when Senator Nelson first made contact with the Commissioner's Office, before these new benefits program was announced (roll tape#4 o.q.'and make the payments")

Raydell Maddix played for the Indianapolis Clowns from 1947-1953....The Tampa resident said he plans on spending some of the money he'll receive to purchase a big screen Television to watch Major League baseball .....He recounted how younger people - such as his own children - can't relate to what it was like trying to be a Black baseball player in the late 40's (roll tape#5 o.q."to New Youk")

Senator Nelson said today's announcement regarding pensions for former Negro League Ball Players, who could not play in the Major Leagues because of de facto segregation, was in perfect syncronicity with the 50 th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case regarding de-segregation in Public School in the U.S. (roll tape#6 o.q."the Negro Leagues")

The Associated Press today quoted Buck O'Neil, Chairman of the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City, as saying upon learning of today's announcement, "That's great.

Good for them...They deserved to get something."

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