Exploring Jethroe's Injustice: The Impact of an Ex-Ballplayer's Legal Quest for a Pension on the Movement for Restorative Racial Justice

52 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2008 Last revised: 16 Apr 2008

See all articles by N. Jeremi Duru

N. Jeremi Duru

American University - Washington College of Law


In 1950, at the end of a triumphant season with the Boston Braves, outfielder Sam Jethroe earned Major League Baseball's National League Rookie of the Year Award. Limited, as a consequence of his race, to three full seasons and one partial season in the big leagues, however, Jethroe fell narrowly shy of the four-year eligibility requirement for a Major League Baseball pension. And, forty years later, without the safety net pensions are designed to provide, Jethroe found himself destitute and homeless. Shortly before his death in 2001, Jethroe sought, but failed to secure, legal relief from Major League Baseball. Far from a minor matter of one retired ball-player's fight for supplemental income in his golden years, the basic characteristics of Jethroe's suit - a claim for pension funds denied as a consequence of Jim Crow era racial discrimination - present a uniquely powerful claim for delayed racial justice. Analyzed, such claims, coined Jethroe Claims by the author, avoid criticisms routinely launched at delayed racial justice claims and thus present a model for claims potentially open to scores of people of color who, by virtue of racial discrimination suffered during their working years, are deprived pension benefits in their later years.

This article explores the feasibility of the civil rights statute 42 U.S.C. § 1981 as a vehicle for such claims as well as the substantial obstacle statutes of limitations would pose. Recognizing, however, an enduring concern among jurists and scholars alike as to statutes of limitations dismissal of otherwise meritorious claims seeking to remedy civil rights deprivations, this article argues Jethroe claims should be spared statutes of limitations application and considers various approaches to thwarting such application.

Ultimately, this article argues that Jethroe claims could, if freed from statutes of limitations strictures, serve to deliver long-denied justice to retirees across the country and, in doing so, help heal the festering wound of racial animosity that has pervaded in America for centuries.

Keywords: sports, sport, employment, equality, reparations, pension, statute of limitations, professinoal reponsibility, discrimination, race, racism, black african-american, african american, black, color

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Duru, N. Jeremi, Exploring Jethroe's Injustice: The Impact of an Ex-Ballplayer's Legal Quest for a Pension on the Movement for Restorative Racial Justice. University of Cincinnati Law Review, Vol. 76, 2008, Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2008-62, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1114209

N. Jeremi Duru (Contact Author)

American University - Washington College of Law ( email )

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United States
202-274-4414 (Phone)

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