The current negotiations between owners of major league baseball teams and the players union could change the way the players' pensions are funded.
If a salary cap and revenue sharing are implemented - as proposed by the owners and opposed by the players - the pension contributions no longer would come from the TV revenues of the All-Star Game and the World Series games.
Instead they would come from the $1 billion in revenue the owners have proposed guaranteeing as the players' share of total major league revenue over the next seven years. It would be up to the players to determine how much of the revenue went to salaries and how much to fund pensions.
The players had set a strike deadline for Aug. 12, but as of press time were considering an earlier date.
Major league team owners have proposed a seven-year deal that would cap a team's payroll at no more than 110% of the major league average or no less than 84% of the average.
They also have proposed a 50-50 revenue split with $1 billion guaranteed over seven years, if revenues don't decrease.
"Once you define the (revenue sharing) split, it's up to the union to define what goes to salaries and what goes to fund the pension," said John Westhoff, associate counsel for the owners.
Mark Belanger, special assistant to Donald Fehr, executive director of the Major League Players Association, corroborated the apparent hands-off attitude of the owners to the pension fund.
"We have made a generic proposal at this time stating that we would like to improve the benefits for those players prior to 1970," said Mr. Belanger.
"The response so far has been 'with the salary cap, you can do anything you want.' We rejected the cap."
Last week, the owners notified the players' union that they would not make the Aug. 1 pension fund payment of $7.8 million to the $792 million pension fund because the contract requiring them to do so expired March 31.
Richard Ravitch, the owners' chief labor executive, said the missed payment won't affect any member of the plan.
Mr. Belanger declined to elaborate about the pension fund for players before 1970, but he admitted the pension for those who played between 1970 and 1992 has not yet been funded.
When the two sides ultimately turn their attention to the pension issue, however, its resolution is not expected to be difficult, according to a representative for the baseball team owners.
"In prior years, negotiating the pension was the big issue," he said. "I would anticipate the pension issue would be wrapped up quickly once we resolve (revenue) sharing."
Both sides declined to discuss how the pensions of pre-1970 major leaguers compares with those of post-1970 players.
According to the 1994 Money Market Directory of Pension Funds and their Investment Managers, William M. Mercer Asset Planning, Deerfield, Ill., is the investment consultant.
The fund's managers include: Ark Asset Management Co. Inc. and Citibank, New York; S.J. Britton Investment Counsel, Lynn, Mass.; Froley, Revy Investment Co., Los Angeles; GAMCO Investors Inc., Rye, N.Y.; Investment Counselors of Maryland, Baltimore; and Waddell & Reed Asset Management Co., Shawnee Mission, Kan.