Allentown Morning Call - May 23, 1980

They’re still talking… but…


By Hal Bock, Associated Press Sports Writer


NEW YORK (AP) – Talks aimed at preventing a major league baseball strike stretched past midnight yesterday as negotiators for both sides remained locked in talks with a federal mediator. 


The six major leagues games played last night were completed before the midnight deadline which the players had established on April 1. though the players had said the games would be completed no matter what the hour. 


Negotiators for the clubowners and the players association resumed joint talks at 10 p.m. EDT after a four-hour recess. The final negotiating session proved to be the longest of three during the day as the two sides attempted to reach an agreement which would prevent the first interruption of a major league season in history. 


Several teams which were moving from one town to another laast night and this morning kept to their scheduled plans despite the threatened strike which was expected to begin with today's games. 


The chief negotiators for the two sides. Marvin Miller, for the player association, and Ray Grebey. representing the owners, meet briefly in informal talks during the recess.


Miller, executive director of the players group which has threatened a strike following yesterday's games, returned to the midtown hotel He was followed a half hour later by Grebey and the management negotiating team. 


It was the third time yesterday the negotiators had arrived at the hotel. And on each occasion, the owners representatives were late for the meeting. 


We are still working away," said Grebey as he rushed into an elevator to the 17th-floor meeting room. 


The two sides met for a total of about 2½ hours in their two earlier sessions with Federal Mediator Kenneth Moffett.


After his return from the four-hour break, Miller said: "There is no reason to stop the clock, need an agreement.”


He said of his talk with Grebey "There is no way to say if it helped I have no more assurances than the last time I left here." 


Earlier, David Vaughn, counsel for Moffett. said of the negotiators: There is no guarantee that they will be back together again tonight." Vaughn said. "The strike deadline remains in effect. There had been no indication on the part of the plavers to extend the deadline." 


Vaughn said he felt that neither party would walk away "if there is a shred of likelihood that they can make a deal." 


Asked if it was still possible to prevent the strike that would begin with today's games. Vaughn said, "It would take an awful lot of movement in a very short time. The odds are against it and they get longer as every minute passes." 


Baseball braced for an unprecedented interruption of its season as the strike deadline closed in. 


Only six major league games were scheduled yesterday, all of them at night, and they seemed certain to be the last contests to be played for some time as negotiators remained deadlocked in fruitless talks. 


The strike was set to start today and nothing that occurred at a morning meeting yesterday the two sides changed the bleak outlook. 


"It would take a small miracle to prevent a strike." said Marvin Miller, executive director of the union. "It could be a long one, but nobody has a crystal ball." 


The players voted virtual unanimous strike authorization during spring training when contract negotiations became stalled. On April 1 in Dallas, the executive board of the players' association voted to strike the final week of spring training exhibition games, wiping out 92 contests and then to walk out again on May 23 if no contract was reached. 


Talks since then have made little if any progress with the two sides deadlocked over the issue of compensation for premium free agent signings. The clubs have demanded a system be implemented permitting them to replace certain free agents who sign with other teams. The union has rejected that idea, saying it would be attack on the free agent system which has produced a huge jump in player salaries. 


The last management proposal on compensation called for ranking players statistically, either by at-bats or, in the case of pitchers, by game appearances, and then classifying the top half of each category as "premium" players. Such players would have to satisfy other criteria such as selection by eight or more teams within a set number of re-entry draft rounds. Those players would qualify for compensation with teams permitted to freeze a set number of roster players before losing a compensation replacement performer. Miller called that proposal "an impossibility." 


With the strike deadline only hours away, federal mediator Kenneth Moffett said the compensation issue had not even been discussed at the morning meeting. "We went over minor issues and nothing happened." he said. "There was no progress." 


Miller said a clique of owners has been working to provoke a strike of the players.


"It's the same group who. in 1976, within a day of our last agreement, made public statements of what they planned to do to us four years hence." said Miller. "That is unheard of in labor relations." 


The union chief charged that the management negotiators, headed by Ray Grebey, had displayed "a lack of good faith from beginning to end" in these talks. 


Pitchers Joe Niekro, player representative of the Houston Astros, and Nolan Ryan, who signed a $1 million per year free agent contract with the Astros last winter to become the highest paid player in the game, sat in on the talks. 


The Astros were scheduled to play at New York last night and then return home to Houston after the game, regardless of the strike decision. Other team logistics were not as simple as that. The Los Angeles Dodgers, for example, were scheduled to play a day game in Chicago today and there was some question whether the team would fly East without assurances that the players would be returned home in the case of a strike. 


"It's a simple matter." Miller said. "The players wanted to know if. in the case of a strike, whether the club would strand them. But you can't get an answer." 


Asked if continued talks could solve the deadlock, Miller frowned. 


"It's more than a willingness to talk," he said. "We talked this morning, but there was nothing substantive about those talks." 


The only other general player strike in major league history occurred at the start of the 1972 season when players sat out 13 days and eliminated 86 games in a dispute over pension and health benefits.

Business as usual – without big league baseball


By John Kunda, Executive Sports Editor


I don't think anyone in my foursome at Shawnee this morning will be wearing a black band. I don't think, either, that the flag that flies in front of the white-columned Inn a( Shawnee will be at half-mast. 


The banks won't be closed. The stores won't be closed. And the bars won't be closed. There will be mail delivery. 


It'll be business as usual on this Friday, May 23, 1980. Business, that is, for all except those directly involved in major league baseball. 


This is Strike Day in the big leagues, and, frankly, I haven't found anybody who gives a damn. 


Perhaps the best pre-strike comment came from Richard Moss, a special counsel to the players association. He said: "There is a danger of lasting harm to the industry. Some people, for all the wrong reasons, will become angry and will lose interest in baseball. They are going to find that life without baseball is possible." 


You are so right, Mr. Moss. 


The public has picked sides. There are those who look at the players as greedy, fat cats looking for more. There are those who look at the owners and say, "you started all this free spending, now live with it.”


It 's the players who will be taking the brunt of the attack. As Pete Rose said back in April, "If we strike, we're gonna get a lot of people mad at us… they know how much money we make." 


You've read the stories about the well-heeled players and the not-so-well-heeled players. For the well-heeled player, with diversified and well-managed investments, life without baseball is possible.


But those making the minimum, $21,000, the strike will bring the problems that Joe Fan knows all about. It's interesting to note that players at both ends of the economic spectrum appear to be equally committed. 


Money is not the big issue in the strike, and neither is the money they will lose because of it. Bob Boone, the National League player representative, said: "We have to lose our salary to keep what we have right now. It would be much worse to lose our salary and our rights, too." 


Free agent compensation is the key issue. Strange as it may seem, it was the owners who created all this free spending to attract the super star. In essence, now, the owners seem to be saying, "Wait a minute, we've gone too far." 


Yes, they have gone too far – much too far. But what they gave a couple of years ago, certainly can't be taken away. Basic labor-relations doesn't allow that kind of thing. 


●       ●       ●


Tonight, Nolan Ryan was scheduled to pitch against the Phillies at Veterans Stadium. A good crowd guess would have been in the neighborhood of 40.000. 


Ryan's a big draw, in Houston as well as in Philadelphia, New York, Atlanta, Pittsburgh – anywhere the Astros play. He's a million-dollar pitcher, and the public stares at players like him. 


The public wants to see if a million-dollar pitcher walks to the mound or if he's wheeled out in a golf cart. 


Now, Ryan stands to lose about $5,500 a day for the duration of the strike, more than any other player in baseball. Said Ryan: "I haven't put a pencil to it, but strictly on salary, as of today, I'm the highest-salaried ballplayer, and we're going to get docked per day." 


Ryan is a product of what the Major League Players Association represents. Earlier this week, he told a wire service reporter that back in 1972, in the first strike, he would have gone back to Texas looking for a job. As it was, he had to borrow money to make it through the 13-day strike that year. 


"I really believe that without the players' association, I wouldn't be where I am today," he said. "I think, as players, we have an obligation to the ones coming up and the ones that played ahead of us to increase the benefits to keep up with inflation." 


Nolan Ryan isn't going to pitch tonight, and he isn't going to get his $5,500. Ramon Aviles, a Phillies' utility infielder, won't be in uniform tonight, either. He makes about $25,000 a year, so figure out what will be missing from his paycheck. 


What'll be missing from Joe Fan's Friday night? Okay, maybe he was looking to watch a game on TV, or maybe, he was going to go to the Vet to see Nolan Ryan. 


Joe Fan might miss it tonight. Maybe over the weekend, too. But he'll get over it – life will go on without baseball.

One thing’s clear, it’s a strike nobody really wants


By Jack McCallum, Call Sports Writer


Veterans Stadium was quiet yesterday, a giant playground waiting in limbo. 


"Usually, there'd be a couple of coaches with somebody wanting extra work or something," said Phillies' publicist Chris Wheeler. "But the place was dead.”


Chances are, it will be dead tonight, tomorrow night and Sunday afternoon, too… and so will be about $384,000 in gate receipts, the approximate take from a three-game holiday weekend series with the Astros. (In the what-could-have-been department, sports fans, Steve Carlton was going against Nolan Ryan tonight.)


How many hundreds of thousands that figure will become if a particularly lucrative four-game series with the Pirates next week strikes out is anybody's guess. Ruly Carpenter, the Phils' owner, no doubt has a guess but has not made any public comment about the strike. Carpenter was to meet the press at the Vet at 10:30 this morning if the apparent strike was called at midnight last night. 


While Carpenter worries about the erosion of a gate that admitted 2,775,011 fans last season, manager Dallas Green worries about the possible erosion of his team's playing skills. 


"The pitching staff is the chief concern." said Green after Wednesday night's 9-8 win over Cincinnati. "Any strike over two weeks is really going to start to tear things up." 


Most of the regular players aren't too worried about their skills; they say the big problem is staying in shape. 


"But you still want to hit every day and try to get some infield." said Pete Rose Wednesday. "Right now. I don't know whether to stay here or go back and work out at the University of Cincinnati. They've got astro-turf." 


The message was clear – the Phillies will not be working out together at the Vet. 


"I doubt if they'll keep the stadium open." said Rose. "I guess I can't blame them." 


Undoubtedly, that will be one of the first questions Carpenter answers this morning. The stadium belongs to the city but the Phillies are one of the leasees and they have the say on whether or not the facilities will stay open for the players. Bet on not. 


So far, the strike has been remarkably free of personal attacks, at least as far as the Phillies go. Green has praised the professionalism of his team, particularly what it showed in the three-game series against the Reds with the strike hanging over their heads. The Phils, in turn, have often praised owner Carpenter in prefacing their pro-strike remarks. 


In fact, the clearest, and the strangest thing about the labor dispute is this – it is clearly a strike that NOBODY wants. 


"It's silly to even think that the players are going to enjoy this." said Greg Luzinski. "but a lot of people have been saying that the players don't even know the issues. I know the issues and so do the players I know. 


"One reason I'm behind it is that my contract comes up soon (he's signed through next season) and I know what it can do for me. Take Pete. He was willing to sign with the Reds for a much lower figure than he got on the market. They wouldn 't meet his demands. They didn't want him. Why should they be compensated for him, then?" 


And that is from a man who is not considered particularly militant, a guy who isn't happy unless he's playing ball.


For the most part, the Phillies are speaking with one voice about the strike. This morning. Phils' management will speak. And. when the strike is settled, the Phillie fans will speak. That's the voice everyone's waiting to hear.