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OWNERS PASS REVENUE SHARING, CAN’T DECIDE ON COMMISSIONER

SHARE OWNERS PASS REVENUE SHARING, CAN’T DECIDE ON COMMISSIONER

Baseball owners, after finally approving a long-sought revenue-sharing plan, will end their three-day meeting today still unable to elect a new commissioner.

A joint session of the search committee and executive council adjourned at 2:30 a.m. EST today, and two people familiar with the group's deliberations said no change will be made in the current arrangement at today's major league meeting, which began a little more than six hours later.Milwaukee Brewers president Bud Selig has been running baseball as chairman of the ruling executive council since two days after Fay Vincent's forced resignation on Sept. 7, 1992.

Finalists for the commissioner's job are U.S. Olympic Committee executive director Harvey Schiller and Northwestern University president Arnold Weber. Neither appeared capable of getting the necessary 21 votes today, and several owners said Tuesday they believed Selig would remain in power.

"We just agreed on a revenue-sharing plan, and you're already asking about a commissioner," Selig said after the early morning session ended.

Selig hailed the revenue-sharing agreement as historic and unique. It passed on a 28-0 vote but won't take effect unless the players' union agrees to a salary cap.

Details of the plan weren't disclosed. Teams in larger markets, such as New York, are expected to share some of their profits with teams from smaller markets, such as Pittsburgh.

"It's something that a year ago I wouldn't have given you five cents for," Selig said. "I didn't think it had a chance."

Following hours of discussion, the owners' applause could be heard behind closed doors when the unanimous vote was completed. Revenue-sharing proposals fell three votes short of an agreement when owners met last August at Kohler, Wis., and one vote short on Jan. 6 at Rosemont, Ill.

"We're united - for a change," Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott said.

Even owners from large markets expressed support for the plan, designed to increase competitive balance. "I'm not looking glum, am I?" New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said.

The owners' efforts could be in vain, however. The plan won't take effect "until there's a salary cap, which makes this kind of an interesting exercise, doesn't it?" Texas Rangers general partner George W. Bush said.

The players union opposes a salary cap. Disagreement over the issue could lead to a player strike, most likely late in the season.

"It's interesting the players have to be an integral part of this, but the players were excluded from the process" that led to approval of the revenue-sharing plan, said Donald Fehr, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Fehr said the players would accept a salary cap only if owners can prove it's needed and agree to share decision-making with the union.

The players refused to consider a salary cap in 1990 and owners withdrew their proposal during a 32-day spring training lockout.

Baseball has had three lockouts and four strikes since 1972. Richard Ravitch, the owners' chief negotiator, acknowledged the game's history of labor strife but said the stakes have changed.

"Before, it was just a matter of money. Now, it's the future of the game," Ravitch said.