NEW YORK (AP) – Baseball tried to give five umpires more than $1.9 million in back pay Tuesday, but they instructed their banks to refuse the payments, according to their lawyer.

More than six years after a failed mass resignation led to a lawsuit that went all the way to the Supreme Court, the umpires and the commissioner’s office are still fighting over an additional $718,817 in interest.

Major League Baseball attempted to pay $525,607 to Joe West, $439,248 to Bill Hohn, $379,095 to Gary Darling, $301,453 to Larry Poncino and $297,162 to Larry Vanover, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. The money was to cover lost salary and bonuses for 1999, 2000 and 2001 plus medical expenses, with a credit taken by management for $122,072 in estimated earnings by the five during that period.

Management also made a $47,422 pension contribution for Poncino and a $42,368 contribution for Vanover.

“These guys are going to get what they are entitled to, which is the back pay and interest,” said Pat Campbell, the lawyer for the Major League Umpires Association. “That was a cheap move by baseball.”

The refused electronic payments are part of a nasty legal battle that initially cost 22 umpires their jobs.

“It is regrettable that the MLUA’s refusal to provide the information necessary to calculate the umpires’ back pay for the last 10 months, after repeated requests that it do so, prevented the umpires from receiving their back pay earlier,” management lawyer Frank Coonelly said. “Even after 10 months, the MLUA has provided only a small subset of the necessary information and, as a result, payments were made to umpires based on estimates.

“Our decision to make payments without the necessary information probably resulted in an overpayment to the umpires but we could not wait any longer for the MLUA to do its part.”

The Supreme Court on Jan. 10 declined to hear an appeal of the original case, but that didn’t end the arguing.

“They did not pay me what they owe me, and they did not pay Darling, Hohn, Poncino, or Vanover what they owed them,” West said in an e-mail.

In documents filed in federal court in Philadelphia on Oct. 27, the MLUA asked that commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball be held in contempt.

While the union claimed in its memorandum that “allowance for prejudgment interest is indisputable,” management said “the MLUA did not seek prejudgment interest in arbitration and this court cannot resolve a remedial question that was not submitted to the arbitrator.”

The five umpires were rehired as part of a partial settlement in February 2002, an agreement that left courts to decide the issue of back pay.

Six other umpires were rehired by baseball. Bruce Dreckman, Sam Holbrook and Paul Nauert gave up back pay when they were brought back in August 2002, and Bob Davidson, Tom Hallion and Ed Hickox agreed to drop claims under a deal this year.

AP-ES-11-15-05 2248EST


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