Philadelphia Inquirer - May 21, 1980

Owners may intervene directly in deadlocked baseball negotiations


Associated Press


NEW YORK – On the eve of a final effort to avert a players' strike, the two sides in the baseball contract dispute huddled separately yesterday, assembling final strategies.


Federal mediator Kenneth Moffett has ordered management and the players back to the bargaining table today, hoping that two days apart will produce some changes in their attitudes.


"Grim is the word," Moffett said. "The owners and the players can be compared to two motorcycle riders going 70 m.p.h. straight at one another, each waiting for the other to blink."


The prospect of direct intervention by baseball owners to head off a strike appears strong, the Washington Star reported yesterday.


The paper characterized one owner, who was not identified, as being very irate over the current situation, which most likely will lead to a strike as of midnight tomorrow.


"Our negotiator (Ray Grebey) and his committee aren't getting anywhere, so I don't think our taking a direct hand could harm anything," the owner told the Star. "It is a disaster right the way it stands now."


So far, Lee MacPhail, president of the American League, and Chub Feeney, president of the National' League, along with Grebey and their respective lawyers have been arguing management's side. There is a six-man owners committee, selected almost two years ago, that receives updated reports from the bargaining sessions. "But they have been equally ineffective," the owner said.


Meanwhile, Grebey talked with owners, updating them on developments and getting their feelings about the final round of talks. Grebey said management remains united in its position.


Marvin Miller, executive director of the players' association, has been busy plotting strike logistics with team player representatives.


The central issue separating the two sides is the owners' demand for more compensation for free agents signing with new teams. The players fear that would place severe restrictions on their freedom of movement.


Management has insisted that the players should continue negotiating instead of striking, but Miller's people have refused to stop the clock, holding to the May 22 deadline set seven weeks ago at an executive board meeting in Dallas.


Grebey also met Monday and yesterday with commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who has stayed out of the spotlight in the negotiations.


Several clubs will be on the road at the deadline, and one team, the San Diego Padres, has threatened not to allow players on the returning club charter unless they buy tickets in advance.


Most players seem convinced that a strike cannot be avoided. Mark Belanger of the Baltimore Orioles, alternate American League player rep, said he would meet with his teammates today. "Everybody should know the whys," he said. "It's not a question of unity, it's understanding the whys.


"I know one thing. If we go out, we're going to have to do better than what we have on the table now before we come back."


Larry Bowa, player rep of the Phillies, said: "It looks inevitable. I don't see any light at the end of the tunnel, unless it's a locomotive coming our way."


George Brett, all-star third baseman of the Kansas City Royals, said he felt that the players would stick together on the strike issue.


"I can't imagine anybody coming back and saying to the owners he didn't want to strike anymore," he said. "Anybody who does that is going to spend the rest of his career in the dirt, ducking pitches thrown at his head."


The Atlanta Braves, who left for a road trip Monday, distributed enough meal money to the players to last only through tomorrow. Teams routinely pay daily road expenses all at once, but the Braves were taking no chances.


Player representative Phil Niekro tried to inject some humor into the otherwise bleak picture.


"I think something will be resolved." he said. "I also think the Atlanta Braves will win the pennant."

Phillies lose pre-strike pennant


Reds win slugfest by 7-6


By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer


Well, the Pirates would have clinched, anyway.


It was hard to say if that was a pennant race the Phillies were in last night at the Vet or just the first heat. But last night did establish that if the season ends tonight, the Pirates repeat as National League East winners.


If the Phillies' 7-6 loss to the Reds hadn't done it, the Sister Sledge All-Stars' rainout would have. Pittsburgh now leads by three. The Bucs have two games left before Deadline Day. The Phillies have only tonight.


And as the Phils slip into their union clothes, they can think about what might have been.


Although Dick Ruthven's outing last night wasn't one of his great ones, there was other stuff to indicate that this might have been an OK year:


•  More good relief from Dickie Noles and Tug McGraw. The bullpen hasn't allowed a run in a week, and Noles and McGraw have yet to allow a runner to score who was on base when they came in.


•  A homer by Bake McBride that gave him 28 RBIs, second in the league to Steve Garvey. McBride is hitting .305. A year ago he was at .222.


•  Mike Schmidt's 10th homer, a first-inning cannon shot that soared right through a rampway in left-center. Schmidt is even with his 45-homer pace of last year.


•  And finally, there were two Greg Luzinski homers, his ninth and 10th, tying him with Schmidt for the major league lead. Luzinski's 10th homer last year came on July 24. And he didn't have a single two-homer game last season. He did have three two-homer months, however.


All those developments fit under the heading of Things You Might Got Encouraged About If The Season Weren't Ending Tonight.


"I think it would be bad for baseball if it ends (tonight), not only for the Phillies," Dallas Green said. "But we think we've gotten over the hump. We're seeing some encouraging things. You'd just hate to quit right now.


"I've tried to play things one game at a time, tried to have fun.... There's not a helluva lot I can do."


Green's only choice is to manage like it matters. He stuck with Ruthven a long time last night. The right-hander trailed, 2-0, in the first, but Schmidt and Luzinski got him even with back-to-back homers. Ruthven's own squeeze bunt gave him a 4-2 lead in the second. But a double by Junior Kennedy (4-for-5) kicked off a two-run Cincinnati third that tied it again.


Then McBride's leadoff homer in the third put the Phils ahead, 5-4, and Ruthven seemed to settle down.


"I wasn't real pleased with the way he threw in the first inning," Green said. "But I kept checking with Booney, and he said he was throwing pretty good. All in all, 1 thought he threw all right. But he didn't make the pitches he needed to make today, certainly."


That was especially true in the crucial Cincinnati sixth. Ruthven would have been out of it, but Johnny Bench's two-out bouncer slipped out of Schmidt's hand as he went to throw it. The throw skidded past first, sending Bench to second.


Then Green took a chance. He decided to walk .200 hitter Ron Oester with reliever Paul Moskau on deck and nobody up in the Reds' bullpen.


Moskau, who once beat the Phillies with a homer in 1978, took off his jacket and started to the plate. Then he turned around and out came Cesar Geronimo. Ruthven promptly walked Geronimo on five pitches.


"I didn't walk Oester to get Moskau (three hitless innings) out of the game," Green said. "I walked him to pitch to Moskau. They didn't have anybody warming up, and the guy (Mario Soto) didn't start warming up until he got Geronimo up off his rear at the end of the beach. You might say that they came out of that situation a lot luckier than I did."


They did because Ruthven (now 4-3) gave up a two-run single to Dave Collins (15-game hitting streak) on an 0-2 pitch. Then a seventh-inning double by Kennedy and a soft RBI single by George Foster gave the Reds an insurance run. They needed it because Luzinski crushed his second homer off Soto in the eighth.


But Doug Bair snuffed out the final two Phillies threats, getting Manny Trillo in the eighth with Garry Maddox on third and fanning McBride in the ninth with Del Unser on second.


When it was over, the drizzle-soaked crowd of 25,202 murmured weakly and headed home. Nobody is more resigned to this strike than the ticket-buyers.


NOTES: If there is a strike, the Phillies will hold a press conference Friday morning to answer questions about tickets and other unknowns. "We don't know the answers right now," Bill Giles said. But he expects the league to issue some directives by then…. Maybe his labor-scene responsibilities aren't the reason, but Bob Boone is 3-for-his-last-39 at the plate. "Heck, playing's a relief, really," said Boone, the National League player representative. "But it's tough to work on your stroke when you're standing around the cage talking about compensation." Incidentally, Mike Marshall, the American League rep, also is having his troubles (0-3, 7.78 as of Friday).... The Phillies' pitching staff has a higher batting average than any regular except Manny Trillo .323 (20-for-62). The pitchers had gotten at least one hit in nine of the last 12 games.

The realization is hitting home


By Frank Dolan, Sports Editor


"Here's an interesting question. Am I eligible for unemployment compensation ij they go on strike?"

- Paul Richardson, Phils' organist


Interesting questions are a dime a dozen these days and nights at big league ballparks, which is a pretty good price considering how expensive everything else is.


And the biggest question of them all, the one the ballplayers, the sportswriters, the broadcasters, the fans, the organists, the hot dog salesmen, the beer vendors, the parking lot attendents, the ticket sellers and, oh yeah, the owners are waiting eagerly to get the answer to is simply this: Will tonight's Phillies-Reds game be the last baseball game at the Vet this week?


This month?


This year?


"What are we, in the 48th hour?" Greg Luzinski asked as he prepared to take batting practice.


Yes, and counting. "It seems like everybody's thinking that at the 11th hour something's going to happen (to prevent a strike)," Luzinski said.


Really, they're hoping more than thinking, wishing more than expecting. They don't want to strike – practically all of them will tell you that – but they are ready to strike and willing to strike. And most of them, even those who don't really understand what's going on, expect to strike.


"The owners who have a so-called desire to get Marvin (players association head Marvin Miller) and teach the players a lesson, they forget where we came from the last four years," Cincinnati's Tom Seaver said. "In a sense it was slavery. You work for that person, or you never had a chance to work for anybody else. Period. That was it. We've come a long way...."


And, Seaver was saying, they weren't about to give up that "freedom," that free agency they had fought so hard to get. If that meant a strike, if that meant a summer without baseball, so be it. I mean, look at the bright side, sports fans. Good seats are still available for all Fury games.


Talk to the veterans – the Seavers and the rest – and you're struck by their apparent solidarity as the countdown continues. You may be among the many who disagree with their position, who can't understand how athletes making big money can be this close to going on strike, but you'll have to admit that the Seavers, the Larry Bowas, the Bob Boones all the players with long-term contracts, have a lot to lose personally and not very much to gain. They may be misguided, but they aren't selfish.


"I'll guarantee you, I'm going to lose money (in the event of a strike)," Larry Bowa said last night. "It's not benefiting me at all. I don't intend to ever play out my option. I intend to finish my career here. Pete Rose, it's not going to benefit him. Garry Maddox, it's not going to benefit him. Bob Boone just signed a long contract. Bake McBride just signed a long contract. Manny Trillo just signed a long contract. It's not benefiting them. People think it's for us. and it's not.


"This is a strong association. The guys believe in one another. I look back at Deron Johnson, Jim Bunning and those guys. They told it to us when we came up just like I'm telling Keith Moreland now. 'It's for you guys.' Jim Bunning told me, 'This stuff coming up is for you, Larry, not for me,' and he didn't lie."


So, in their minds, the stars of today are doing a good turn for the stars of tomorrow by supporting a union that raised their salaries to the levels they now enjoy.


Think big-league ballplayers are all selfish slobs? Then you don't know John Vukovich.


The Phillies' utility infielder and emergency catcher will be 33 this summer, and he's 15 days short of becoming a four-year man in the majors; in other words, he's 15 days away from qualifying for a big-league pension. Vukovich worked as hard as an athlete can possibly work to make it back to the majors this spring after nearly five years bouncing around the minors. The pension means a lot to him; if the rest of the 1980 season were to be lost, John Vukovich would be one of the biggest losers of them all.


You might expect a man in his position to have strong doubts about the impending strike. Not John Vukovich.


"Yeah," he said, "I'm 15 days short, but if Marvin hadn't cut it (the pension requirement) down to four years, I'd be a year and 15 days short.


"I'm behind Marvin. I feel whatever decision he arrives al is the right decision. I don't pretend to be smarter than him, that's all.


"Naturally, I don't want to strike. Naturally, I want to play this year; it took me five years to get back. But we voted to let him make the decision, and I'm going to stand by that. For ownership to think the association won't stand together is wrong. You can look at anybody on this club or in the big leagues, whether it's Pete making the salary he's making or me making the salary I'm making, and we owe it to Marvin Miller because of what he's done for all of us.


"Free agency is never going to benefit me, no matter what happens. But I've got a roommate (pitcher Kevin Saucier) it's going to help. I've got teammates here and friends here it's going to help. For me to look out for myself and not for them is not what a 25-man team is all about, much less a 700-man team (the full players association). If I was going to think strictly of myself, then I'd say: 'Sign anything so I can get my pension,' but I can't do that...."


So the Tom Seavers are ready to go out. The John Vukovichs are ready to go out. And the kids? The ones they're really fighting this battle for? They may not fully understand, but the decision has been made for them.


All the strike talk, all the labor jargon had seemed like so much gobbledygook to the Sauciers, the Noles and the others until the last few days. Now here we are; the week of decision has arrived. Instead of playing big-league baseball for a living this summer, some of the kids may be working conduction jobs, umpiring semi-pro games, doing whatever they can to pick up a few bucks. That, they understand.


"Last night," said Saucier, "I couldn't sleep thinking about it. I never gave it much thought until about two weeks ago, and I didn't really give it a whole lot of thought then, but last night it really bothered me."


It is bothering all of them now, to one degree or another.


"I do the best to put it out of my mind," said Mike Schmidt, "but every reporter walking around wants to know about the strike and how you feel about it. Nobody's asked me about how it feels to be only 2½ games out (prior to last night's defeat). Nobody's mentioned that."


They haven't asked it because, for all anybody knows, the pennant race could be over. The Pittsburgh Pirates, now three games up with 48 hours to go until the strike deadline, may have become the first team in big-league history to clinch a division tide the third week in May.


For them as well as the Phillies, for everybody connected with baseball from Paul Richardson to the guys who sell you those overpriced hot dogs it is a depressing thought.