President Bush Urges an End to Baseball Dispute

From Associated Press

President Bush today called on baseball players and club owners to settle their contract dispute "so that the American people can hear the cry "play ball.' "

"I'm a ball fan and I want to go to the opening game someplace," the President said at a news conference.

He again said, however, that he will not intervene to settle the labor dispute.

Bush, like everyone else, apparently will have to wait beyond the scheduled Opening Day to see his first game this year.

When Commissioner Fay Vincent meets with the league presidents today, it will not concern how to save Opening Day but how to postpone it.

Monday was the unofficial deadline both sides had set for having players in spring training camps in order to start the baseball season as scheduled on April 2.

But there were no negotiations on the contract stalemate Monday and no new ideas on how to get the talks going.

Vincent was scheduled to meet with American League President Bobby Brown and National League President Bill White to map out a plan for postponing Opening Day.

"We're working on that," Vincent said Monday night. "I'm trying to figure out what the process is."

Vincent said it was "highly unlikely" that opening games would be played on time, and owners negotiator Chuck O'Connor said of a postponement: "It's not a foregone conclusion, but it's darn close to it."

Likely to be discussed at the commissioner's meeting are how to deal with games that will be called off because of the dispute, and the likelihood that the season will include fewer than 162 games.

"It would be difficult to make them up," Brown said Monday of the games that will be called off. "What we will attempt to do is at least assure that every team plays the same amount of games.

"But it hasn't been decided yet as to how many games at a time will have to be canceled or just how the season would start once an agreement is reached."

Today is the 27th day of the lockout, and no negotiations are scheduled as the sides remain deadlocked on salary arbitration eligibility.

O'Connor said that he had a telephone conversation with union head Donald Fehr on Monday but that he had no idea when formal negotiations would resume.

"When one side or the other comes up with an idea that is worth discussing," O'Connor said of a date for a meeting. "I can't sit here and negotiate with myself. The proposal has to start at Third Avenue," headquarters of the players' association.

With the likely postponement of Opening Day, O'Connor said there are issues that will complicate matters even further.

"The question of how long spring training will be, how long the season will be," O'Connor said. "We will have to go back to work an agreement that will prorate contracts."

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