Philadelphia Daily News - April 2, 1980

Owners Throw Curve

 

Camps Open to Striking Players

 

By Bill Conlin

 

CLEARWATER – As the clock passed midnight, major league baseball seemed to have thrown itself off the precipice.

 

Marvin Miller and the Executive Board of the Players Association had drawn the sword in Dallas and bloodied it. The rhetoric had moved into the action stage.

 

There would be no more exhibition games this spring. The Players Association had voted for a mini-strike, erasing the last week of the Palm Tree and Desert Circuit, but would open the season on schedule. They would strike on May 22 – the Thursday going into the long Memorial Day weekend – if no progress is made in stalled negotiations to hammer out a new four-year basic agreement.

 

Now the ball was in the owners' court. Surely, they would close the spring training camps today and ship the equipment north. That would be a minimum action.

 

More drastic, they would seek a court injunction ordering the players to live up to the exhibition clauses in their individual contracts. Perhaps they would even prejudice their strike insurance by declaring a lockout of the season.

 

SHORTLY AFTER WORD came out or Dallas on the players action, Phillies General Manager Paul Owens said that he and other baseball executives had been ordered to make "no comment," until the exhibition strike was studied by the Player Relations Committee and the owner's chief counsel, Ray Grebey.

 

It turns out Marvin Miller's wrath was turned away by a soft answer.

 

The spring training camps will remain open, Grebey announced late last night. Facilities will be available for a continuation of the conditioning routine for all players who wish to take part. Transportation north next week will be provided by the clubs for athletes who desire it.

 

Catch-22? No meal money or hotel expenses will be paid out to players for the balance of spring training. Players deemed not in condition by their respective clubs on opening day will not be permitted to play.

 

Vengeance is ours, saith the owners.

 

As of 2 a m., neither Phillies owner Ruly Carpenter nor GM Owens were available for comment on the unfolding scenario. They had spent the night locked in a meeting in Owens' Holiday Inn suite and special assignment scout Hugh Alexander said The Pope was not accepting calls. Indeed, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn had earlier sent Telex messages to each club ordering silence until the owners had time to study the players' action and take appropriate action.

 

THE ESSENCE OF Grebey's statement is that his employers have finally learned something about psychological warfare and that Miller is not the only one who knows how to play the game of one-upsmanship. Will the players now refuse to work out because their spring training expenses will be withheld? Can they refuse the amnesty of their employers in the wake of Mike Marshall's cynical wish that the camp's be kept open for the health and welfare of the game?

 

The Phillies left Pompano Beach in a rainstorm yesterday afternoon, heading north to Cocoa Beach in two buses and a fog of confusion. They were approaching the intersection of 1-95 and the Florida Turnpike when the news was flashed from Texas of the mini-strike.

 

Manager Dallas Green ordered the buses on to the Holiday Inn in Cocoa Beach, where the Phils were to have played the Astros today. On arrival, he called a team meeting for 9 this morning. Behind closed doors. Topic unknown, but easily surmised.

 

"Godammit Pope," Dallas told Owens by phone earlier in the day, "all our hard work was for nothing, so to speak."

 

He had a good chance of being right about that. With seven exhibitions left, the Phillies starting pitching was about as sound as the dollar.

 

WE REALLY DON’T know all the details," Pete Rose said last night. "All we have to know is that there's some very, very big exhibition games remaining in Houston and the West Coast. This will give both parties eight solid weeks to gel something done."

 

Even if the owners had shut down the practice facilities there would not have been a wholesale northward exodus. At least not from the Phillies' section of the Florida west coast.

 

"I'm going to stay here and work out until it's time to open." Rose said. "I think most of the players will stay until next week, whether it's on our own or whether the Phillies keep the facilities available. I can always do my running, my throwing and hit a ball off a tee."

 

Greg Luzinski said he was waiting for a midnight phone call from Phillies player rep Larry Bowa. "He'll fill me in," the leftfielder said. "Right now I don't know enough about the particulars to comment"

 

Larry Christenson, a convalescing member of a pitching staff, said a lockout would mean a personal setback.

 

"This is not what I need," the sore-kneed righthander said. "I need all the work I can get. Throwing on an empty lot isn't going to do much for me. And some guys who are trying to make the ballclub will have a hard time, too."

 

Not as hard as one would suspect. Unless Green has had a dramatic change of mind in the last day or two, as many as five rookies could go north – if "going north" is appropriate baseballese at this time. Scott Munninghoff, who has allowed just one run in varsity combat, pitched two more scoreless innings in yesterday's 4-1 loss to the Rangers and virtually clinched a spot on the 10-man staff. Lonnie Smith and Keith Moreland already have the club made and Green is. leaning heavily toward rookie outfielder George Vukovich, impressive in every department this spring.

 

A SUSPENSION OF the final week's games would leave Green with a starting staff in tatters. Randy Lerch was rank once again yesterday, failing to throw strikes with his breaking ball and derelict with men on base. Bump Wills burned him with back-to-back steals.

 

Owens spent the long afternoon pacing his suite like an expectant father. Carpenter gave up on pacing when the rain stopped. The owner went to Jack Russell Stadium and jogged.

 

In this weird game of Russian Roulette, Marvin Miller spun the chamber yesterday, put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

 

Bang! He shot 25 owners in the foot.

 

Last night, Ray Grebey spun the chamber and took his turn. He got Miller with a stream of water. Next week they go to cream pies.

 

Who's running this strike, Steve Martin? Dean Martin? Billy Martin? Hilarious, isn't it?

 

Some questions remain. Now that tomorrow's scheduled exhibition, with the Red Sox has been struck – so to speak – from the schedule, will the Phillies charge $4.50 to watch Gus Hoefling conduct stretching exercises?

 

When Kiteman III comes waffling down the center-field ramp next Friday night at the Vet, will there be a message scrawled across his wings. "Players Unfair to Owners?"

 

 

Stay tuned. Better still, tune out.

Players Walk, No Longer Talk

 

By Tom Cushman

 

DALLAS – At mid-afternoon yesterday, the scene outside the ballroom area of the Airport Marina Hotel was a re-creation of a pre-dawn still life, drawn at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan.

 

Bodies were slumped across the few available pieces of furniture, others were sprawled on the floor, others seemed to be dangling from receivers at the pay telephones. Some guys sipped coffee. Some studied the Dallas newspapers, absorbing the volumes of information and commentary devoted to Roger Staubach's farewell address. Some dozed.

 

Had it not been for the presence of the television cameras and an occasional glimpse of someone scribbling in a notebook, in fact, passers-by probably would not have realized that here was the national media at work... gathered in Texas to record another historic moment in sports.

 

Outside, under cloudless skies, fanned by a light breeze from the southwest, the temperature meandered toward the high 70s. It seemed a lovely afternoon for a ballgame.

 

INSIDE, WHICH WAS where hardball was being played this day, it was approximately 3:30 (CST) when the doors to the 2001 Ballroom parted, and a voice was heard to say, "Gentlemen, you may now come in."

 

And so we did, for within that room were the player representatives of major league baseball's 26 franchises, plus Marvin Miller, the Eugene Debs of the diamond. Finally, we had arrived at the hour when the Players Organization would advise us as to the form the next strike against baseball's owners would take.

 

The announcement began with Marvin Miller, somber and in tones heavy with the anguish of one who has hurled himself time and again against the gates of unreason, recounting in detail the progression of the negotiating. Or, as Miller describes it, the non-negotiating.

 

Not surprisingly, the owners did not fare well in this resume. To one who had been busy observing the work of other heavies in the sports industry – I believe Leroy Jones would qualify under this description – and had not kept abreast of events on the labor front, it was disheartening to learn that the owners were all created by Charles Dickens.

 

The groundwork done. Miller then flipped over his ace. Capsuled, the state of baseball at that moment in time was this:

 

THE EXHIBITION schedule has been terminated. The players, however will remain in camp if the owners so desire, work out daily and open the season on schedule. But if a new agreement is not reached by midnight. May 22, a strike will begin on May 23.

 

"It is one final good faith offer by the players to reach a reasonable agreement without disprupting the season," Marvin Miller explained. "The time involved is enough to normally make five agreements, not one, so this is not a symbolic gesture."

 

Conceding that, it also is a strategy clever enough to demonstrate that the Players Association no longer is a novice at the bargaining table.

 

Consider:

 

By refusing to play the remainder of the exhibitions, they have put a minor economic hurt on the owners, principally in the Los Angeles and Texas areas where inter-league matches between local teams attract sellout crowds. "Why should we help build up the war chest of owners who have, from the beginning, resolved to take us on strike?" asked Marvin Miller.

 

BEYOND THAT, DELAYING an actual strike until late May is beneficial in two areas:

 

•  "The owners would prefer a strike at the beginning of the season," Miller suggested. "Because of the weather, attendance is often not that good in April, school still is going on, there are more open dates, so their losses would be minimal then." Miller did not need to add that the situation changes dramatically as Memorial Day approaches.

 

•  The players, realizing that they have not fared well with the guys down at the comer saloon during this crisis, hope to gain credibility with the fans by offering to start the season despite the fact that the contracts problems are unresolved.

 

"We don't want to cheat the fans," aid Larry Bowa, the Phillies' player represetative. "Hurting them concerns us... we're very much aware that they're the ones who help pay the bills. We lose their interest, we're all out of business."

 

Not having the benefit of Marvin Miller's day-to-day rhetoric, it is true that the fans have not responded well to this latest impasse. Guys who work long, hard days in the mills so that they can be bilked by their oil companies will not take kindly to being treated in the same manner by their shortstop.

 

SO THE OWNERS, sensing that a work force averaging over $100,000 a year individually for catching baseballs does not figure to be a sympathetic bargainer in today's economy, have kept an almost invisible profile in these negotiations. With the moderate, and seemingly reasonable, strike plan offered yesterday, the players tossed the ball to the owners, who returned it last night.

 

Ed Grebey, counsel for the owners, announced that the camps would remain open for those players who wish to continue working out. Grebey went on to explain, however, that with the exhibitions canceled his employers cannot afford to pay the expenses of those who stay in camp.

 

And so it continues. It is Miller's contention that the owners have seized this hour of economic distress to attempt a breakup of the free-agent system. "The only proposals we have seen from them have been retrogressive," he said yesterday. "For 90 years players in this game were considered property, and these people would like to turn the clock back to that era."

 

Among the player representatives, there seems to be a consensus that the guy who deserves a hiding is Grebey. "We have the feeling," Mark Belanger of Baltimore said yesterday, "that the owners don't get very accurate information as to what our proposals really are. I'm sure there are some things Grebey doesn't tell them.

 

"IF THAT MAN (pointing toward Miller) ever came back and didn't tell us all, we'd be furious. But he doesn't operate that way."

 

Earlier, following the announcement here, Larry Bowa had been asked for his reaction. "I'm a little down right now," he began. "I don't want to see a strike."

 

Gaining quickly in spirit, Larry added, "But this isn't a strike yet. What we're doing is giving the owners a chance to get their act together.

 

"Every aspect of the situation was discussed during the meeting, and in the end the only vote we took was on this proposal. The response was unanimous. This is a major good faith effort... we're going the last mile to try and avoid a strike. Hopefully the owners are not ignorant enough to ignore that fact."

 

Larry was asked if he didn't feel that once the season got rolling along some of the support for a stoppage might erode. "I don't care whether I'm hitting.040 or .340," he replied, "if May 23 comes and this thing is not settled, we walk."

 

USING THAT COMMENT as punctuation, Larry then walked to a telephone to call Florida and spread the word. After meeting with his constituents upon his return to Clearwater, he would, he said, recommend that they remain at camp and continue working out. Other representatives were soon airborne, too, heading for other camps with similar messages. Members of the national media, less certain of what had been accomplished in Texas than the players, also scattered.

 

 

Locally, despite the fact that there is a major league team in the area, neither of the major Dallas papers found room to mention the meeting at their Airport Marina Hotel yesterday. Being objective, you must remember that while all we stand to lose is a baseball season, Dallas has lost a quarterback.