Three former expansion Senators – Chuck Hinton, Jim Hannan and Fred Valentine – helped found the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association in February 1982, recruiting more than a dozen other former players. The organization today has more than 8,600 members. Brooks Robinson is the group’s current president and several other Hall of Famers serve as vice presidents.
It was Hinton’s idea, said Hannan, who pitched for nine seasons in Washington and is now chairman of the association’s board of directors. Hannan wrote his master’s degree thesis on MLB’s pension system, which Marvin Miller, the long-time players union attorney, used to familiarize himself with the benefits players received for their service.
“The NFL has an alumni association. Why don’t we have one?'” Hinton asked Hannan back when they got together in Washington in ’82, the former pitcher said at an alumni association event in 2018. “Well, I think we should start one,” Hinton told Hannan. Not long after that, a handful of former Nats began meeting every couple of weeks, Greg Swatek wrote for MLB.com in July 2018.
“When we first started,” Valentine, the former Nats outfielder who is the association’s vice chairman, told Swatek “we didn’t have any means or any idea of how to do this. We just knew that this was needed.”
Hinton became an early star with the expansion team, hitting .310 in 1962 and finishing second to Luis Aparicio in stolen bases. After retiring as a player, he coached Howard University’s baseball team from 1972 to 2000 and established an insurance business in Washington. He died in January 2013.
The organization he founded promotes the game by raising money for charities and conducting free baseball clinics for players and coaches around the country every year. It also hosts events that bring retired players and their families together. Its for-profit arm, Major League Alumni Marketing, helps retired players supplement their incomes through the sale of signed memorabilia and by arranging speaking engagements.
Retired players also participate in the Swing with the Legends Golf Series, which has raised more than $70 million for major charities. In 2009, Hannan and the alumni association organized a game at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, in conjunction with the Hall of Fame induction, that pitted retired MLB players against each other. The annual Hall of Fame Classic Legends game is now sponsored by MLB and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
In fairness, and so this does not sound like something written by the alumni association itself, there has been criticism that the group has not been a stronger advocate for higher pension payments and better medical coverage for former players who were not big stars. The alumni association does have a second subsidiary called Major League Alumni Services, which works on this issue. Many of those who retired before the era of free agency are in their 80s and late 70s now, and did not share in the lucrative salaries paid to those who came after them. Sadly, as fewer of those from the ’50s, ’60s and early ’70s remain alive, pressure on the issue is likely to fade.