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Old-time Dodgers protest about their pension rights

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When Pete Coscarart was a Dod-ger, the team played at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn and he could turn double plays with ease.

Now the 85-year-old Coscarart and other men who played for the Dodgers in the 1930s and 1940s marched to Dodger Stadium on Sunday to protest what they believe has been "shabby treatment" from the players' union and team owners over their pension rights."They've just forgotten us," said Coscarart, named to the National League All-Star team in 1940.

Coscarart played nine seasons in the majors as a second baseman and shortstop. He spent the first four years with Brooklyn and the final five with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Players who retired before 1947 receive no pension because the major league baseball pension system was established that year, said John Puttock, an attorney and friend of the men.

Under the latest pension rules, these major league retirees would only have to coach or play for one day to qualify for the pension, Puttock said.

"They walked the steep hill in silent protest over the shabby treatment they have received from both the union, who could care less what happens to them, and the owners, who think they are too old to coach a major league team for one day," Puttock said.

Coscarart was cut out of the pension after he and Al Gionfriddo tried to organize Pirates players into a union in 1946, Puttock said.

"Pete and Al were labeled as troublemakers and sent to the minor leagues as punishment because they demanded players receive a minimum wage of $5,500 a year and pay for their meals at spring training," Puttock said.

Among those who joined the protest was Sam Jethroe, 84, who played just four seasons in the majors - three with the Boston Braves - before ending his career with Pittsburgh in 1954. The switch-hitter played in only two games for the Pirates, getting one at-bat.

Jethroe, the 1950 NL rookie of the year with the Braves, failed to qualify for a pension because he didn't play four full major league seasons.

"They said I don't have enough time to get the pension. I thought I had enough time," Jethroe said, adding he's worried about his wife of 50 years, who will have no financial support if he dies.

Don Newcombe, a former Dodgers pitching great and Jethroe's roommate while both played in the minor leagues in Montreal, said baseball should somehow help men like Jethroe.