Atlantic City Press - April 1, 1980

Virtual Unanimous Strike Vote Could Delay Baseball’s Opener


DALLAS (AP) — Armed with an overwhelming, virtually unanimous strike vote, the executive board of the Major League Players Association meets Tuesday to decide on action which could disrupt the start of the 1980 baseball season.


For most players who are in spring training in Florida, Arizona and California, the question is not whether there will be a strike but rather when it will come and how long it will last. 


Stalled talks and a thunderous 946-1 vote authorizing the strike all but assured a walkout, especially after negotiations between Marvin Miller, executive director of the union, and Ray Grebey, representing management, turned bitter last week.


The owners called for federal mediation last Thursday and a marathon meeting Sunday among Grebey, Miller and mediator Ken Moffett in Palm Springs, Calif., apparently produced little progress. 


“I am not optimistic,” Miller said during a break in that session. "I think they (management) are doing everything possible to provoke a strike. It’s as clear as can be. They’re acting like 4-year-olds. They won’t move on anything and they won’t listen to the players’ side.” 


Miller and Grebey have been talking for some 20 weeks in an effort to work out a collective bargaining agreement to replace the one which expired Dec. 31. 


The basic agreement sets down general working conditions for the players and includes the free agency provisions which have revolutionized the baseball industry. 


While recognizing that free agents are here to stay, the owners are seeking to introduce significant compensation for teams losing players via that route. The players, fearing that would place severe restraints on the market, are resisting the proposal, which has become the major stumbling block in negotiations. 


The last time the union’s executive board met was March 4 in Tampa, Fla. At that time it asked authorization from the players to call a strike “on or after April 1.” Miller has toured the 26 spring training camps to brief the players on the talks and take strike authorization votes. The only negative vote was cast by Jerry Terrell, player representative of the Kansas City Royals, who said his position was based on "religious convictions." 


Strike talk has occupied most of the players all spring. Some favor an immediate walkout. Others have said the strike should come on opening day, April 9, and a smaller portion support waiting until the season is well underway and crowds are beginning to build. 


In 1972, stalled talks centering on pension and health benefits resulted in the first general strike by players in baseball history. That walkout came on April 1, three days before the scheduled start of the season. It lasted 13 days with 86 games postponed and not made up.