Reading Eagle - May 22, 1980

Baseball Down to Last Pitch in Strike

 

NEW YORK (AP) – With a strike deadline only hours away, baseball negotiators faced a nearly impossible task today, meeting for one last time in an effort to reach an agreement on a new contract that would prevent a play stoppage.

 

There was little hope that a strike could be averted after another round of fruitless talks Wednesday.

 

“Unless there is a complete change of heart, we’re headed pell mell for a strike,” said federal mediator Kenneth Moffett.  “We’re in deep trouble.”

 

Moffett said no progress had been made at Thursday’s session when the players association presented a revised proposal to owner representatives.

 

“Sitting at the end of the table and hearing the two sides, it sounded to me as if we were a month away from a deadline instead of 30 hours,” the mediator said.

 

Marvin Miller, executive director of the union, said there would be no avoiding the deadline in his talks with management.

 

“A strike creates pressure,” Miller said.  “Removing the deadline creates to pressure.”

 

Miller said player representatives of all 26 major league teams had been sent telegrams restating the will of the union’s executive board which voted unanimously on April 1 to strike unless a contract is negotiated by May 23.

 

“Games Thursday night will be completed.  The strike begins May 23,” Miller said.  “Nothing changes that except an agreement.

 

But the two sides seem miles away from any settlement.

 

“We did not make any progess,” Miller reported.  “We have negotiated for six months and produced nothing even approaching an agreement, even with a strike deadline.  Now they propose removing the deadline and then work for an agreement.  They say if we reach one, it would be retroactive.  Well I learned a long time ago that if you’re offered zero retroactively, it’s still zero.”

 

Ray Grebey, chief of the management negotiating team, dismissed a player association proposal made Wednesday which Miller said had “substantially revised downward” a number of union demands.

 

“It contained nothing new or that we hadn’t already talked about,” Grebey said.  “And ther was a serious omission.  It didn’t deal with compensation.”

 

Miller bristled at that description.

 

“I love the way he obscures the truth,” the union chief said.  “It’s true that the proposal dealt with no issues not discussed before.  But he led you to believe it didn’t change anything and that’s misleading.”

 

Miller said the players had offered reduced demands in the areas of minimum salaries, pension contributions and “split” contracts for players who perform both in the Major and minor leagues in a single season.

 

“There were other important revisions and deletions,” Miller said.  “It produced virtually nothing in the way of movement.”

 

The movement management still insists on from the players is acceptance of a formula for compensating clubs losing “premium” free agents.  The last proposal on that matter was made last week.  At that time the owners suggested ranking players by pitching or batting appearances in order to determine whether they would qualify for compensation as free agents.

 

The players association rejected that idea, saying such a formula would classify .222 hitters and pitchers with earned run averages of over 6.00 as “premium” free agents.

 

Management responded Wednesday with a four-page information sheet distributed to all players.  It said that only nine of last winter’s 44 free agents would qualify for compensation under their proposal.  Some who would not have fallen into “premium” classification, the owners said, included Rudy May, Fred Norman, Tony Perez and Rennie Stennett.

 

Meanwhile, clubs prepared for what seemed an almost certain interruption in the season.  Although weekend advance ticket sales remained strong in many cities, teams were readying refund plans for fans.

 

“Our ticket sales have never been better,” said Jack Schrom, vice president of public relations and marketing for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  “The threat of a strike has not put a dent in us in the least.  In fact, we have well over a half million seats sold for future games, conservatively speaking.  The money’s in.”

 

The Pirates expected about 80,000 fans this weekend for a series against San Diego.  If the strike comes, the team said refunds would be made.

 

Cincinnati hoped for 100,000 for a three-game series against Montreal, slightly higher than the team drew over Memorial Day last year.  Fans have not asked for refunds yet and the club has not made any refund plans yet.

 

In Baltimore, the Orioles sold 37,000 advance tickets for a weekend series against Detroit.  It would be the club’s first weekend home series this season.  “We don’t want to say anything at this moment about refunds,” said General Manager Hank Peters.  “We’ll make those announcements at the proper time.”

 

Milwaukee has sold between 65,000 and 70,000 seats for a six game home stand against Minnesota and Seattle which was to begin Friday night.

 

“Seattle and Minnesota traditionally don’t draw that well anyway,” said Dick Hackett, the Brewers’ vice president for marketing.  “Right now the team isn’t playing all that well.  That has a bearing on ticket sales.  There’s the threat of a strike, that has a bearing on it.”

 

Hackett said no fans have asked for their money back and the team would have announcement Friday concerning refunds.

 

Chris Wheeler of the Philadelphia Phillies said there had been a “noticeable dropoff” in ticket sales for games this weekend and next week.

 

 

“People figure why bother to buy them when you’re just going to have to bring them back,” he said.

Hamner a Man of Misses

 

By John W. Smith, Asst. Sports Editor

 

Granny Hamner was the shortstop in 1950 when the Philadelphia Phillies just missed being involved in one of the biggest collapses in history.  They finally won the pennant in the 10th inning of the last day.

 

Two weeks ago, he just missed being caught up in an even bigger collapse.

 

Remember that car that stopped a foot from oblivion when the Sunshine Skyway bridge went down south of St. Petersburg?  Granny Hamner was driving the car two cars back of that one.

 

Hamner, in Reading this week in his role as roving infiend instructor for the Philadelphia farms, came within a few seconds of not being anywhere.

 

“I stopped because I saw the taillights of the car in front of me,” said Hamner.  “I thought there’d been an accident on the bridge.  I was about from the pressbox to the pitching mound from where the first car was.

 

“I moved my car into the other lane to stop traffic.  The guy behind me had already gotten out.  He’d seen the boat hit the bridge.

 

“Fortunately there wasn’t too much traffic.  A lot of people had stopped because of the rain.  I’d stopped for about a couple of minutes on the causeway, but it got worse after I started again.

 

“Then a police car comes along, and the policeman says, ‘We’ve got to keep the traffic movin’ on the bridge.’  The guy in front of me yells, “There ain’t no (bleep)in’ bridge.’

 

“I was afraid the rest of the bridge was going to go, so I got out of there as quick as I could.  You know, I know one of those guys in the car that almost went off, but I didn’t wait to find out about it.”

 

Hamner was driving from Clearwater (where he’d been visiting) to Sarasota, where the Phillies hold their extended spring training.

 

“I’ve driven over that Skyway many times,” he said.  “I remember thinking often, ‘That’s a helluva drop.’”

 

So did Hamner stop off for a quick belt?  “No, I went back and over the Gandy Bridge and round by way of Tampa.  I had the company car, so I had to get there.  Course, the game was rained out that day.”

 

Phillies Concerned

 

Meanwhile, the Phillies were getting quite concerned when Hamner didn’t show up.  “They’d heard that a pickup had gone off, and they thought the car could be confused with that.  They were just about ready to drive up to see what was happening when I finally arrived.”

 

Hamner vividly recalls being passed by the Greyhound Bus which shot into nothing.  “This was about 30 seconds before I stopped,” he said.  “He was going faster than the cars because he was up higher and could see better.”  (Because the bridge broke off at its high point, the oncoming cars could not see the missing section as they could have if they’d been going the other way.)

 

Hamner, who managed the Reading Phillies in the last part of 1976, doesn’t consider this his closest brush with death, though.

 

“Three years ago I was out in Chesapeake Bay with my brother’s son-in-law.  A storm came up and he couldn’t make it in.  We started taking on water.  I said, ‘You have flotation, don’t you?’  And he said, ‘No, I just took it out to put in more gasoline.’

 

I was in the water for about two hours, and I can’t swim.  I had a life jacket on, but my legs were getting tired.  I thought I was gone.  There were boats around us, but they couldn’t see us.  Finally an oil tanker picked us up.”

 

Presumably along about now, Granny Hamner is a little leery of water in any form.

No Joy After Phils Triumph

 

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – The attitude in the Philadelphia Phillies’ dressing room after their 9-8 victory over the Cincinnati Reds reminded one of baseball’s famous poem, “Casey at the Bat.”

 

To paraphrase the famous line, “There was no joy in Mudville… there was no joy in the winners’ dressing room because the thought that by midnight tonight there might not be any baseball in Mudville,” was a mighty sobering influence.

 

The Phillies came from behind Wednesday night in the ninth on a tracer that took a wicked hop over third baseman Ray Knight’s head and turned into a double for Mike Schmidt.  Greg Luzinski then singled home Schmidt to tie the game.

 

Pinch-hitter Del Unser walked, and after trying to bunt twice, Garry Maddox flied out.  But Manny Trillo lined lined to right where Reds’ right fielder Dave Collins muffed the ball for an error and pinch-runner Lonnie Smith scored the winning run.

 

Ordinarily, the Phillies would have been whooping it up with a second victory in a three-game series with the powerful Reds.  The two teams had played since Monday as if there was no tomorrow.  They combined for 40 runs and 67 hits.

 

Luzinski, who has seven hits in his last nine official at bats, including four home runs, admitted that the atmosphere was charged after a telegram to the players indicated a strike was almost a certainty.

 

“I could feel it around the batting cage,” said the muscular outfielder who now leads the National League with 11 home runs.  “I’m in a pretty good groove… I hope I have it when I get back.”

 

Despite the somber mood of the players, there was a ray of hope when it was learned that part-time stadium employees told earlier not to report for work Friday were told to come to work.  The Phillies, off today, are scheduled to open a series with Houston Friday night.

 

Phillies’ manager Dallas Green felt like his players.  Green sat behind a plate of untouched food and said, “I’m low right now.  I’m just sitting back waiting for a catastrophe to happen.”

 

The game was a slugfest in which Cincinnati took a 3-0 lead in the first on a bases loaded triple by Knight, who had three hits and drove in four runs.  The Phillies tied it in the bottom of the inning on a two-run double by Maddox, and a bases-loaded walk to Ramon Aviles.

 

Cincinnati’s Tom Seaver, 26-11 against the Phillies lifetime, lacked his control and lasted one and two-thirds innings, giving up six runs.  The Phillies went ahead 6-3 with three more in the second on a two-run homer by Luzinski, and rookie catcher Keith Moreland’s first major league homer.

 

Shortstop Ramon Aviles’ first big league homer made it 7-3 in the third.  The Cincinnati bullpen silenced the Philadelphia bats until the ninth.

 

The Reds then came back against the Phillies’ Larry Christenson and three relievers to go ahead 8-7.

 

Cincinnati scored three in the fourth inning on four hits, including a two-run double by Johnny Bench and an RBI single form shortstop Ron Oester.  The Reds got one in the sixth on a triple by pinch-hitter Rick Auerbach on Knight’s second triple (sic), following a walk to Dan Driessen.

 

Collins took the blame for the loss.

 

“I missed it,” he said of Trillo’s ninth-inning liner.  “I never took my eyes off the ball.  It was kinda glaring in the lights and at the last second it sort of fishtailed.  No excuses.  I should have had the ball.”