In the days before baseball players pulled down seven-figure salaries, the stars of the national pastime made workaday wages and bowed to the wishes of team owners.
Players such as Dolph Camilli and Al Gionfriddo grabbed their lunch pails and went to work at the ballpark each summer day. In the winter, they had additional jobs to pay the bills. Such was the life of a major leaguer in the years before 1947.
An estimated 77 of those players are still around, some living in obscurity, some appearing at card shows and old-timers' games.
However, none of the players who retired before 1947 receive a pension from baseball, leaving many of the game's elder statesmen wondering if they're really the game's forgotten heroes.
A group of those players has sued major league baseball and its licensing arm, Major League Baseball Properties, seeking royalties from the use of their images and names.
It could be the only compensation some of those players ever receive from baseball in their golden years.
In his well-kept San Mateo, Calif., home, Camilli is surrounded by reminders of his days on the diamond. The smiling faces of Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio adorn the walls.
Clad in shorts and a T-shirt, Camilli at 89 appears tanned and fit, although his knees get sore from his 12 years in the majors. After all these years, he's still torn between his love for the game and his anger over the lack of provisions baseball made for his generation.
"The owners were greedy and they had no regard for the future of their ball players," he said. "We had to go out and work in the wintertime to make ends meet. If you had a family, it wasn't easy to make it on the salaries they were paying us."
In 1941, the year he was named the National League's most valuable player, Camilli's salary reached a peak of $24,000. Today's average major league salary is $1.2 million a year.
Camilli had a .277 career batting average with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs. He hit 34 home runs with the Dodgers in 1941.
The way he sees it, no other professional sport treats its retired players worse than baseball.
"The owners then turned us over to the players' association. They were in full charge and they wouldn't go back and pick us up," he said. "In football, the day they brought the plan in, the old-timers were included."
San Francisco attorney Ron Katz and his firm are representing many retired players in a pair of class-action lawsuits brought against major league baseball and Major League Baseball Properties, the sport's licensing agent.
Filed earlier this year in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland, Calif., one complaint alleges that baseball misappropriated the rights of retired players by using their names, photographs and other likenesses for merchandise without permission or proper compensation.
The other claims baseball breached its contract with about 400 additional retired players by depriving them of pooled royalties from sale of products bearing their names and likenesses.
"Basically, these men were treated as property, not people," Katz said.
Baseball officials wouldn't comment on the pending litigation but responded in court by saying it is not a legal entity and therefore can't be sued. A judge recently ruled it is an unincorporated association and allowed the lawsuits to go forward, Katz said.
Because the plaintiffs are elderly, California law allows the lawsuits to come to trial quickly. Barring a settlement, Katz expects to bring the matter before a jury by early next year.
In the sixth game of the 1947 World Series, Gionfriddo robbed DiMaggio of a home run with a dramatic running catch. Although DiMaggio's New York Yankees went on win the title, Gionfriddo's Brooklyn Dodgers won that game game 2-1.
It was Gionfriddo's final year in the majors.
Now 74 and living in the Santa Barbara area, he can't get copies made from pictures of his famous catch without permission. He gets no compensation when pictures or films featuring him are displayed or reproduced.
"They've been showing that clip on television during almost every World Series every year since 1947," he said.
"Why can't I get paid for someone using my name, my photo, without my consent? I don't even get a call. That isn't right."
Gionfriddo, an outfielder who also played for Pittsburgh, had a .266 batting average over a four-year career. He made $8,000 his best year and sold furniture and cars in the off-season.
He doesn't begrudge today's players their lavish paychecks, but he does blame the owners of his day who put their own interests ahead of the players on the field.
"I was born about 40 years too soon, let's put it that way," he said with a laugh.
While team owners and the players' association wrangle over the current labor contract, some on both sides sympathize with the plight of the retirees and believe some kind of compensation would be appropriate.
The question is: Who should pay for it?