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The story of the Major League Baseball pitcher from Lowestoft who fell on hard times

PUBLISHED: 10:16 03 April 2019 | UPDATED: 21:53 04 April 2019

Lowestoft-born Les Rohr went on to become a Major League Baseball pitcher with New York Mets, before his career quickly went south. Picture: Courtesy of SABR.org

Lowestoft-born Les Rohr went on to become a Major League Baseball pitcher with New York Mets, before his career quickly went south. Picture: Courtesy of SABR.org

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Lowestoft is not exactly famed for producing Major League Baseball stars.

Lowestoft-born Les Rohr's 1968 Topps baseball card, dubbing him a rookie star alongside Houston Astros outfielder Ivan Murrell. Picture: Courtesy of SABR.orgLowestoft-born Les Rohr's 1968 Topps baseball card, dubbing him a rookie star alongside Houston Astros outfielder Ivan Murrell. Picture: Courtesy of SABR.org

But now a little known son of the seaside town is at the centre of a scandal sweeping the US sport.

Born in 1946, Les Rohr spent the first six months of his life on the Suffolk coast - where his father was serving with the U.S. Air Force - before moving to Billings, Montana.

Rated as a talented left-handed baseball pitcher, Rohr was chosen second overall by the New York Mets in the 1965 MLB draft.

And yet, despite striking out six hitters on debut, his career went downhill when he suffered an elbow injury during an epic contest against Houston Astros in 1968.

Lowestoft-born Les Rohr went on to become a Major League Baseball pitcher with New York Mets, before his career quickly went south. Picture: Courtesy of SABR.orgLowestoft-born Les Rohr went on to become a Major League Baseball pitcher with New York Mets, before his career quickly went south. Picture: Courtesy of SABR.org

Two years later Rohr was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers but a medical revealed he was suffering from a ruptured disc in his back. He had spinal fusion surgery and never played professionally again.

But now Mr Rohr has found himself at the centre of a campaign for former players to receive fair pensions.

Doug Gladstone, a freelance magazine writer, has been leading the charge to get former players such as Rohr, now 73, the money they deserve.

“Prior to 1980, you needed four years of service to be eligible for an MLB pension,” said Mr Gladstone. “Since 1980, all you’ve needed is 43 game days on an active team roster.

“The players’ union either refused or forgot to ask for retroactivity for unfortunate souls like Rohr, who had more than 43 game days but less than four years.

“For the past decade I’ve attempted to help all the men who are without MLB pensions to get the money that I feel they deserve.”

Mr Gladstone published a book on the matter in 2010 and, following a relentless campaign, MLB and the union agreed to pay Rohr and others in his position up to $10,000.

But he is now pushing for players’ families to receive spousal payments in case players do not claim the monies to which they are entitled.

“I’ve said on countless occasions these men are being penalized for playing at the wrong time,” added Mr Gladstone.

“It is simply anathema to me why neither the league nor the union want to help them. Baseball is a $11.5 billion industry - it’s not like they can’t afford to do the right thing.”

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