Philadelphia Daily News - May 23, 1980
Only Strike Here to Come from Pitches
By Bill Conlin
As the clocks rushed toward midnight, the odds that Steve Carlton and Nolan Ryan would square off at Veterans Stadium tonight were 100-1. Against.
But American Labor works in wonderous ways, its settlements to perform. Marvin Miller, executive director of the Major League Players Association, and Ray Grebey, counsel for the Player Relations Committee, which represents the 26 club owners, went eyeball-to-eyeball.
Somebody must have blinked.
Details of the landmark four-year basic agreement will not be announced until all the owners and player representatives have been briefed. After that, the new contract – which reportedly has resolved the thorny issue of free agent compensation – must be ratified by the rank and file.
THE IMPORTANT thing to all concerned. there will be a game of baseball tonight at 8:05 between the Phillies and Astros. Houston righthander Ryan and Phillies lefthander Carlton have 5,703 career strikeouts between them.
Maybe the hitters will stage a wildcat strike.
Reaction in the Phillies camp was swift and ecstatic.
"I'm obviously very pleased that baseball will continue without interruption this season," said Owner Ruly Carpenter after an all-night vigil in his Delaware home. "I'm not totally familiar with all the details of the agreement. but I have all the confidence in the world in the Player Relations Committee and stand by their position. The major concern, however, was for the game itself and the fans, the so-called little people."
EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT Bill Giles said he's "elated" at the settlement, but also "a little bit surprised."
"I was always holding out a little hope," said Giles, "but late yesterday we heard were all kinds of negative reports. Things looked kind of gloomy." But when he got the news of the settlement early this morning, Giles aid "I was a little bit surprised they worked it out."
"Evidently," said Giles, "there was some give and take on both sides. I don't know the exact details yet, but there must have been some compensation rules changes."
The threat of the strike had severely hurt advance sales for the weekend series with the Astros and the game with the World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates Memorial Day evening. "The only tickets we sold so far are to season ticket holders," said Giles. "Normally, for the Pirates we have at least 30,000 advances sales."
However, added a smiling Giles, "the phones in the ticket office have been ringing all morning."
GENERAL MANAGER Paul Owens, an eternal v optimist, said he felt all along that wiser heads would prevail once the saber-rattling stopped and it came time for the negotiators to hammer out an agreement.
"I felt all along there would be a settlement, "Owens said from his home in Sewell, N.J. "I was one of the few optimistic people. Both sides had to realize how important settling this was to the game. I'm tickled to death."
Manager Dallas Green, whose team is just stating to get its act together, echoed those sentiments.
"I'm very happy for the game of baseball and I'm selfishly happy for the 1980 Phillies because of the way we've been playing lately. All we want now is to bring a championship to the Philadelphia fans."
CATCHER BOB BOONE is the National League Player Representative and was a voice of reason and moderation throughout the often bitter negotiations.
"I'm relieved and believe most people are," Boone said. "I'm confident it's a good agreement for the players and I'm really pleased we avoided a strike for the good of all involved."
Greg Luzinski left the Vet Wednesday night as the hottest hitter in baseball, with four homers in his previous three games and seven hits in his last nine at bats.
"It's the best thing that's happened to our team," he said. "We've just started to put things together. We should all have a clear mind. Our No. 1 concern now can be playing baseball."
The Astros arrived at the University City Holiday Inn at 4 a.m. after receiving a "go" instruction from Miller at midnight.
Houston publicity director Ed Wade said club owner John McMullen bought the team dinner at the Stadium Club in Shea Stadium after the game with the Mets. A number of players were holding reservations on a 3 a.m. flight to Houston. But everybody was on the team bus when it arrived here.
Unfortunately, that included Nolan Ryan.
MEANWHILE, OTHER major league players, relieved over not having to abandon the dugout for the bargaining table, also cheered the news of their settlement.
Awakened before 6 a.m., Steve Renko, player representative for the Boston Red Sox, said: "I haven't heard it yet. If that's true I am sure everyone will be happy about it."
"I don't think there are any players that wanted to strike," Renko said. "It's really good for the fans."
JOE NIEKRO, player representative of the Houston Astros, said he was relieved by the settlement.
"I think it's great," he said. "I'm glad they got it worked out. It takes a big load off all our minds."
Breakthrough In 11th Hour Averts Strike In Big Leagues
By Stan Hochman
NEW YORK – The players eye-balled the owners for seven long and bitter months. This morning, somebody blinked.
We will find out who it was later today, when details of a new four-year basic agreement are announced.
But if the details are fuzzy, the result is clear. There will be no baseball strike this year, no pickets, no empty ballparks, no blank scoreboards.
"I am pleased to announce we've reached an agreement for the next four years," owners negotiator Ray Grebey announced at 5:05 this morning.
The settlement came on the day the players had set for a strike and beat the clock by 9½ hours, since the Dodgers were scheduled to play the Cubs beginning at 2:30 today.
No details of the new contract were announced because Grebey had to notify the 26 owners and Marvin Miller, executive director of the Players Association, had to contact the 26 player reps.
THE FULL SLATE of games will be played as scheduled today as baseball escaped by a drooping eyelash its first strike since 1972.
That year, a strike rubbed out nine days of the season and cost the players 4.9 percent of their income.
This time the stakes were higher and this time the owners were better prepared to withstand a strike. They had accumulated a war chest of over $3 million. They had purchased strike insurance that would have taken effect after 15 days of inactivity and paid each club approxiamately $1 million a day for the following 30 days.
Yesterday, earlier in a clumsy round of talks and recesses, Miller said it would take a "small miracle" to avert a strike.
Since Bowie Kuhn is 6-4, Miller could not have meant the sudden emergence of the commissioner into the negotiating scene.
Kuhn didn't get involved. Weeks ago he had spoken of owning a hole card. Perhaps it was a joker.
"Miracles," the commissioner said, "sometimes are made by hard work.
"There wasn't any need for anybody to look for a hole card. I think my main role was to be certain both sides were talking to one another, trying to bargain in good faith.
"AND NEVER FOR a moment did I have any doubts that that was going on."
Kuhn's view was a minority one. Some owners even suggested he stay in the background, deep in the background, searching for his hole card in the sleeves of his thermal underward.
"When you have 26 owners," Kuhn confessed, "some would like to see, the commissioner take a back seat."
Despite the mind-boggling suspense about the details of the new agreement, some clues were available.
Grebey said. "We think it's a good agreement, with something in it for everybody."
Miller said. "Whenever you reach a good agreement, and I hope it will be described this way, that both parties have achieved a victory, because that's what peaceful collective bargaining is. That's a great victory for everybody concerned."
Asked to describe the small miracle that had turned the tide. Miller said, "that miracle was reaching an agreement"
What would you expect, Ernest Hemingway, after 18 hours of on and off negotiations?
IT WOULD APPEAR from the language of the two principals that the players may have given in on the compensation issue, perhaps coming up with a number they can live with... perhaps allowing major league clubs to protect as many as 30 players on the 40-man roster, giving up an unprotected player to a team in return for signing a free agent who has abandoned that team.
In return, perhaps the owners sweetened the pension pot by more than $15 million.
Two separate agreements were hammered out, a basic agreement covering the way the game will be governed for the next four years, plus a new pension package.
"It's a mistake." Miller said earlier, "to treat highly competitive athletes in the manner they (the owners) do.
"I don’t want to sweep everybody in the same closet with one broom (but) there is a clique out there wishing to provoke a strike."
A block away at the Doral Inn, negotiation headquarters, a clique of general managers and owners huddled. During the night Grebey conferred with Joe Burke of Kansas City, Clark Griffith of Minnesota, Dan Galbreath of Pittsburgh and Bob Howsam of Cincinnati, all members of the Players Relations Committee. Also on hand were Peter O'Malley of Los Angeles and Haywood Sullivan of Boston.
The settlement added a long wearying day of bargaining that started late and continued on a schedule only Amtrak could love.
THE FIRST SESSION was set for 10 a.m., but the owners contingent showed up an hour late, leaving Miller bitter.
“That's the 15th time they've done that," he grumped.
The first session lasted 90 minutes and Miller moaned afterward about the time wasted discussing swampy fields and guidelines for umpires not smart enough to get in out of the rain.
They resumed at 4:50 p.m., 50 minutes after the scheduled 4 o'clock start. They quit again at 6:30, both parties going their separate ways.
The talks resumed at 10:05 and ambled on into the night, with most of the television crews packing their gear at midnight to avoid dreaded overtime.
Somewhere in that sequence Miller scolded the owners for wanting to bring the players "to their knees." He lectured the owners about underestimating the competitive nature of the athletes.
At 6:45, David Vaughn, counsel to the mediator, said there was an awful lot of ground to cover and very little time to do it.
Greg Luzinski should only cover so much ground so swiftly. In six hours, they worked out problems that had mystified them for six months. A miracle indeed.
Solid Gold and Rhinestone Cowboys
By Stan Hochman
NEW YORK – Ruly Carpenter doesn't need to dip into the Phillies' profits to keep himself in penny loafers and alligator shirts and horned-rimmed glasses.
He is, as they say. independently wealthy. Not nearly as independently wealthy as some of his brethren in baseball. He can handle modest losses for a few years, but if the numbers get to seven figures. Carpenter may have to decide whether the aggravation outweighs the fun.
Last year, the Phillies sold 3,000.000 tickets, drew 1,900,000 on the road and still managed to lose $541,000. That's because they're tied into big-buck, long-term contracts with key players, giving them a 40-man payroll of $6,900,000.
It is a decision Carpenter made when the free-agent stampede started, and it enabled the Phillies to win three consecutive division titles.
HAD THE PLAYERS decided to strike, the Phillies, because of the Carpenter family wealth, would have been able to withstand a long one. They are in the upper echelon of baseball teams when it comes to financial stability.
Here is one man's ranking of the other clubs.
Solid gold: San Diego (Ray Kroc's arches are indeed golden); Pittsburgh (the Galbreaths own half of Pittsburgh, the better half); St Louis (this Bud's for you. Augie Busch); Los Angeles (the Dodgers made more money than anybody else the last two years); California (Gene Autry is loaded, always has been).
Gold plated: Yankees (Steinbrenner has his ships); Toronto (a brewery backer); Milwaukee (auto money); Detroit (radio money); Kansas City (Ewing Kaufmann doesn't need to take his own aspirins); Montreal (Seagram's money); Cubs (tough as old chewing gum); Mets (in debt up to Doubleday's armpits, but solvent); Houston (McMullen has ships, too); Cincinnati (solid lawyer-types); San Francisco (real estate).
Rhinestone cowboys: Boston (a trainer and a third-string catcher); Baltimore (a big-time lawyer with big-time loans); Cleveland (55 owners); White Sox (in hock up to Bill Veeck's wooden leg); Oakland (Finley's folly); Texas (new man in town); Seattle (when is the last time Danny Kaye said something funny?); Minnesota (the Griffiths operate on a tattered shoestring); Atlanta (red ink makes Turner seasick).
Who were the hardliners, the moderates, the teams most anxious to avoid a strike?
Militants: California, Cincinnati, Cubs, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Montreal, Detroit, Toronto, Minnesota, Kansas City, Oakland.
Middle-of-the-roaders: Texas, Boston, San Francisco, Milwaukee, Yankees.
Peacemakers: Philadelphia, Baltimore, White Sox, Houston, Mets, Los Angeles, Seattle, Atlanta, Cleveland.
Who werelhe movers and the shakers?
Ed Fitzgerald of Milwaukee, John Fetzer of Detroit, Ewing Kaufmann of Kansas City.
Who might as well have gone fishing? Charlie Finley, Ted Turner, Edward Bennett Williams.
UNANSWERED QUESTIONS: Which Pennsylvania company sold the owners a $30 million strike insurance policy for a premium of $1,600,000, when the owners could provoke a strike by outrageous negotiating tactics?
Does the strike insurance start after six days or 15 days?
Did Marvin Miller really offer to reject his salary for 'the duration of the strike?
Would guys like Nino Espinosa and Amos Otis, currently on the disabled list, have been paid during the strike?
Do Pete Rose and Rod Carew have contracts that call for them to get paid if there is "no baseball?" And what would nave bDeen the legal ramifications had those superstars tried to collect paychecks?
Someone asked federal mediator Ken Moffett about his batting average in avoiding strikes.
"Unfortunately," he answered,, "since I've been working in Washington I've had the Washington Star, the Washington Post, the New York newspapers and baseball, whatever, all with a high degree of volatility involved.
"I DID A LOT better when I was working when I was in Cleveland."
Sure, but who noticed?
Marvin Miller has a slern answer to the suggestion that he and Ray Grebey are "hired guns" who would have ridden off into the-sunset if players and owners had had to pay the price of a strike.
"That's nonsense," Miller said yesterday. "Mr. Grebey and I have our differences on the way negotiations should be conducted.
"That has nothing to do with the difficulties we've been addressing. I've been involved in negotiations in baseball for 14 years and Mr. Grebey has not been present at anv of those... and we always had difficulties.
"Maybe it's me."
When the history of this averted baseball strike is written, will there be a splattered footnote about muddy fields?
"YOU MIGHT BE interested in the flavor of some of the discussions," Miller said sourly.
"We were talking about some issues of lesser importance. From time to time we have talked about poor field conditions being a hazard... umpires not calling a game.
"We revised our proposal that the joint safety and health committee take that matter up to devise guidelines for umpires as to when you call a game. "
"We also proposed guidelines for appropriate field conditions be worked on by the safety and health committee. They recessed for 25 minutes on that... and came back and said, 'No, it's not acceptable."
“Can you imagine how they’d react to a serious subject?"
Strike Talks on the Sandlot
By Rich Hofmann
Before Lee Felice's homer cleared the left-field fence and almost nailed a guy playing basketball in the playground, before Paul Dobies lost a warm-up ball in the tall grass in foul territory, even before Ed Kukawski and three of his friends plunked themselves into lawnchairs about 10 feet from the left-field line, it was obvious to everyone there that this was not major league baseball.
And everyone there couldn't care less.
This was the Pen-Del League, Rachuba vs. Magnolia at the playground at Richmond and Ash. About 50 people showed up to watch Danny Nay strike out nine in the Mags' 3-1 win. Everyone at the game knew about the marathon baseball talks.
And everyone was disgusted as they pushed the strike deadline.
Walter Rice's reaction was typical, and since he was wearing a red "Mags" hat and a "Mag Power" T-shirt, it was also pretty predictable.
"I THINK IT stinks," he said. "If I got free tickets I wouldn't go to see the Phillies. Who wants to go see a... "
Before Rice finished his thought, Frankie Piech piped up. "You see a better game out here with a bunch of guys who play their hearts out," he said. "They're not getting anything at all, no publicity, no nothing. They just have a good time. This is all fun ball. Their hearts are in it – not like the pros. They're out for the money."
Then Rice re-interrupted.
"It's like a family," he said.
Walter and Frankie, admittedly, are on the fanatic fringe. There are more than a few more Phillies hats covering heads in Bridesburg than Mags hats. And, although the labor troubles might leave some people disgruntled enough to shun the Phillies and start coming to Pen-Del games, the players realize that it really won't affect them.
"Maybe a few more people," said Rachuba second baseman Dave Laverty. "But it won't change. Things will be the same."
The same. With an all-dirt infield. And some players rushing to the games from their jobs, dressing in their cars. And a Softball team waiting to use the field. And the conversation on the bench alternating between the merits of the squeeze play and the girl 10 feet away wearing the tight white tanktop.
THE QUALITY OF play in the league is good. There are some guys who are a little too old and a little too round, but most of the players are young and talented. Almost all of them play on college teams during the school year or played on them before recent graduations.
Each roster is a mixed bag: some college kids, some young-married types, some guys hoping for that big break to sweep them into the pros, some who didn't make it in the minors and are on the way down.
"I'm one of the ones on the way down," said Rachuba catcher Charlie Matlack, laughing. "I played at Upper Darby and in college at Delaware County. I was in Florida for about two months with Cincinnati about three years ago, maybe four. I had a shot at it, but it didn't quite work out."
So Charlie Matlack plays in the Pen-Del League, 40-odd games this summer, for the team sponsored by the Rachuba Plumbing Company.
"This is a lot of fun," he said, "That's the only reason I play here. It's the only reason a lot of the guys play here. It's just a lot of fun."
Fun? Not money, pensions or free agency – the issues that dragged out the major league talks?
"I don't agree with the players in the strike that much," said Magnolia's Paul Dobies. "I'd play in the majors for nothing if I could. If I was there, I wouldn't demand so much – I think they're getting paid too much."
AND THIS, FROM Dave Laverty: "I can understand what they're striking for, as far as free agents and compensation. But I can't understand anyone making $200,000 a year going on strike. So I blame both sides."
Finally, we have Ed Kukawski. "As far as the major leagues go," he said, "they could stay out forever. These kids come out here for the sport of it. There are kids out here who probably won't even play in a game, but they come out here anyway, to be near the game. And I think that's the way it should be."
And then Ed and his buddies went back to talking. They'd just heard about how some major leaguers were worried about finding jobs during the strike. They laughed.
And early in the evening, they wondered where baseball was heading.