Wilmington Evening Journal - May 23, 1980

Finally, umpires will call all the strikes


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


It will be Steve Carlton against Nolan Ryan tonight at Veterans Stadium.


That's right. They're going to play major-league baseball. The best left-hander in the game against a right-hander who can throw the ball through a wall.


Houston vs. Philadelphia.


If you grew up on baseball, that has a marvelous ring to it.


Say it again.


Houston vs. Philadelphia, the Astros against the Phillies.


This time yesterday the likelihood of that game or any other major-league game taking place today seemed impossible. By mid-afternoon the Major League Baseball Players Association was expected to be on strike against owners.


But through marathon negotiations, and you have to throw in a miracle or two, the two sides got together in New York at about 5 o'clock this morning.


All the details on how these two sides finally reached an agreement is not known. Throughout the negotiations the road block was the free-agent issue. The owners demanded a system for free-agent compensation, allowing teams losing what they considered a premium free agent to receive a replacement. The players association repeatedly rejected this.


But in the wee hours of the morning, something happened in New York.


A source close to the bargaining table says the strike was averted because the players association agreed to keep the free-agent format the same this year, with changes to come down the road of the four-year agreement.


"A philosophical approach was reached on the compensation issue," he said, asking that his name not be used. "The agreement gives the owners compensation similar to what they wanted, tut doesn't begin immediately. It will definitely not start in 1980, but somewhere in the future."


In order to get this, the owners had to make movement in the areas of minimum salary, pension benefits and the years needed to qualify for the pension.


Basically, it was learned, this is the agreement:


As stated, the free-agent system with the re-entry draft in November will be the same in 1980 as it has been the past four years. Compensation will be one No. 1 amateur draft pick.


The next three years, however, there is still the chance for a players' strike, but only over the free-agent issue. The owners have the unilateral right to invoke the 15-18 compensation proposal that has been on the table during negotiations. By the same token the players have the unilateral right to strike, but only on the compensation issue.


In other words, with the 15-18, the owners can say that in the 1981 season, for example, they have the right to impose those compensation conditions. If the players do not agree to this, they can strike over it.


In the meantime, a study committee will be set up to examine the compensation issue. This will be a committee of owners and players, not Ray Grebey or Marvin Miller, If this committee comes up with a proposal that will be endorsed by both sides, then that will take precedence during the next three years.


The 15-18 concept freezes 15 or 18 players on the roster, based on the quality of the free-agent player as determined by a complicated set of data.


Bob Boone, the Phillies' catcher and National League player representative who spent hundreds of hours working with Marvin Miller, has not received all of the details.


"When they went back in the session before midnight I got a phone call and was told they were getting close," said Boone in a sleepy voice. "The tentative agreement they were close to then probably has been altered, so I am talking tongue-in-cheek more than anything else.


"As I understand it the free-agent system is status quo this year, with a committee of players and owners to work on it for the future. Essentially, that is what we gave them last week; it was so logical. This is not to say the main issue is not solved. There's a way out of it. It's in a little different form than we presented it. The compensation thing will be worked out later on."


During the last 10 days Boone was constantly in demand for his views on the negotiations both by his teammates and the media.


"I've never really been through anything like this," said Boone. "I had a similar feeling when Danny Ozark wasn't playing me a few years ago. That, though, was nothing like this. Even now I'm not saying, 'Great, it's all over.' I was Jetting so frustrated with it because thought our offer was so practical, so realistic. But last week it was totally rejected I think my interest in the whole think kind of wanted. I felt we were going to have to go out (strike). I was more or less relaxing, knowing that if the owners would not accept our offer it was going to take a strike. I was resolved to that early in the week. Not until late last night did I become optimistic."


Ruly Carpenter, the Phillies' owner, spent last night at his Montchanin home waiting for news from New York.


He was hoping for a miracle, but was not optimistic.


"Obviously, I'm pleased that baseball will continue," he said this morning. "I'm not totally familiar with every detail, but I have all the confidence in the world in the Player Relations Committee and will stand by its position. My main concern all along was for the game itself and what it means to the so-called "little people" involved."


Carpenter was fearful that if there was a strike it would take a long time to win back the fans. Already, attendance at Veterans Stadium was down about 10,000 a game and advance ticket sales had almost stopped as the midnight May 22 strike deadline approached.


Manager Dallas Green, who had finally seen his team jell, was extremely depressed after Wednesday night's 9-8 come-from-behind victory over Cincinnati.


Long after most of the reporters had left, I told him I had a gut feeling there would not be a strike.


"I don't think you are right," said the rookie manager. "What we're hearing from New York does not give it much hope."


Early this morning, Green was excited.


"I'm just happy for the game of baseball," he said. "Selfishly, I'm happy for the 1980 Phillies because I've seen a lot of good signs lately. Mainly, though, I'm happy for the game of baseball."


"I had faith all along something would happen." said Pete Rose. "People kept coming up to me and asking what I was going to do. I told them I thought I would be in uniform on Friday night and that we would be playing the Houston Astros. That's how I felt. It would have been a black mark against baseball if there had been a strike. It would have taken a long time to win the fans back, by luckily, we don't have to worry about that now."


Greg Luzinski had a lot to lose if there was a strike. After a dreadful year in 1979, the Bull has been on a comeback trail.


A streak hitter, he has been in a good groove the last week. In his last nine at-bats. he has three singles and four home runs to take over the major-league lead in that department with 11. His average has gone from .243 to .278.


"I'm jumping for joy," Luzinski said, half sarcastically. "I went over to Mike Schmidt's new house in West Chester last night and we were kinda down, worrying about the thing. When I got home Boonie called at about 1 o'clock and said it looked good in New York. Everybody was anticipating a strike.


"I don't know what brought it about, but I'm happy. It would have been tough on me. Everybody on the team seems to be coming. Pete Rose is hitting the ball pretty good, the younger kids are going a good job, so now all we have to think about is baseball. Yesterday was a long day for all of us.


"I kept listening to the radio and the reports were not good, but something happened."


Something big.

It’s ‘Play Ball’ after all as negotiations avert a strike


By Hal Bock, Associated Press


NEW YORK – Baseball’s longest night ended in a settlement of the contract dispute between owners and players that averted strike which threatened unprecedented interruption of the major league season.


While the full terms of the agreement were not announced, The Associated Press learned today that the settlement gave owners essentially what they wanted on the free-agency issue that had been the main stumbling block since talks opened six months ago.


Marvin Miller, executive director of the union, and Ray Grebey, chief negotiator for the 26 owners, struggled through a marathon day and night of negotiations, finally hammering out an agreement in a seven-hour wrapup session which ended around 5 o'clock this morning.


The settlement must be presented to the Player Association's Executive Board and membership for ratification. Neither party would comment on the final disposition of the difficult free agent question.


But a source close to the club owners told The Associated Press the agreement gives owners compensation on the free- agent issue similar to what they wanted, but that it doesn't take effect in 1980.


The owners had been asking for a system of compensation in which a team would have to give up a player when it signed a "premier" player from another team as a free agent.


Bob Boone of the Philadelphia Phillies, the National League player representative, said by telephone that there was an understanding on the free-agency issue but that it wouldn't happen this year.


Boone also said he was surprised by the agreement "Last week I lost interest in the whole thing," he said. "I saw no way (of reaching an agreement). Actually, Thursday morning I was relaxed, just sitting around and waiting for the inevitable.


"We've reached an agreement for four years," said Grebey. "We think it's a good one. There's something in it for everybody."


Miller called the settlement a victory for both sides. "That's what collective bargaining means," the union chief said. "When you reach an agreement without a strike, it's a great victory for everybody concerned."


The settlement means today's games will be played as scheduled. Grebey said only one team might have transportation problems, but that he expected the schedule to be followed.


"It's a good deal all around," said Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who made his first appearance at the talks. "There was a lot of honest goodwill all around. The parties worked hard at it. I'm ecstatic."


This mutual victory was not easy to achieve and several times as the final day of negotiations stretched into night, it seemed a strike was inevitable.


The first indication of a break came at 2:20 a m. when Moffett and Vaughn arrived to report that the two sides were still bargaining and that progress had been made. Moffett said he thought they might have a statement in about an hour.


Grebey's party then left the hotel and walked a few blocks to American League headquarters where they met with a committee of management people, including members of the Player Relations Committee and Executive Council, and presented terms of a tentative agreement.


Meeting with the league presidents and Grebey were Haywood Sullivan of the Boston Red Sox, Peter O'Malley of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Dan Galbreath of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Bob Howsam of the Cincinnati Reds, Clark Griffith of the Minnesota Twins, Joe Burke of the Kansas City Royals and Commissioner Kuhn. A half hour later, the negotiators returned to the hotel, and 90 minutes after that the deal was sealed.


The settlement provides a new collective bargaining agreement, with improvements in minimum salaries and pensions among other items.


The key issue throughout was the clubs' demand for a system of free-agent compensation, allowing teams losing a "premium" free agent to receive a replacement. The union had rejected the owners' formula for determining whether a player warranted compensation.