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FANS VENT FRUSTRATION ABOUT DEAD-BALL ERA

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Major league players on strike? Replacement players carrying on the national pastime? Hey, the San Diego Padres might actually improve.

At least that was the feeling of one California resident who was among several fans across the country fielding questions Friday concerning the haywire status of the summer game."It hasn't affected me or my family because San Diego hasn't had a good team in recent years," said 16-year-old Gregory Stein, a high school sophomore who lives in La Jolla, Calif. "I say bring on the replacement players, and the Padres might have a better team."

And what's all this fuss about a salary cap? To one California fan, it will knock some sense into overpaid players in both leagues, none of whom have ever been blindsided by a blitzing linebacker.

"The money's out of hand in baseball," said Todd Cohen of Hermosa Beach, Calif. "I don't want to pay $3.50 for a beer so I can help pay for some left fielder's salary. These guys get $7-$8 million dollars to play baseball? They don't even get hit. Troy Aikman makes $6 million, but he deserves every penny for taking that Wilber Marshall hit. I wouldn't take that Wilber Marshall hit for $6 million. That hit would've killed a man like me."

In New York, baseball's salary cap also seemed like a pretty good fit to Steve Wright, a mail clerk who was walking in Times Square. "The salary cap is the best thing for baseball," said Wright, who added he finds the game boring, but is a huge fan of professional basketball and football, sports which impose a salary cap.

David Lawrence, a shipping manager from Brooklyn, took the owners' side as well. "The players are making a lot of money, and you and I go to work, have a degree, and we don't make half the money they make," said Lawrence, a Met fan. "Their talent is not worth their pay. You have some people who have Ph.D.'s who don't even make $100,000 a year."

Many fans intend to wage their own strike against baseball whenever the game returns to normal. Not Jose Pascuao, an electrician from the Bronx. Wearing a Yankee jersey under his unbuttoned leather jacket at the corner of 43rd Street and Seventh Avenue, Pascuao said:

"I'll go to baseball games, no matter what. The players are fighting for what they feel is right. The players may be millionaires, but the owners are multimillionaires."

Lillian Kaufman Finkel, an antiques dealer from Mahwah, N.J., will not let replacement players spoil her love for the game, either.

"My daddy from Russia would walk three and a half miles to see games at Yankee Stadium," she said. "He took us to Brooklyn Dodgers games at Ebbets Field. Would I go to see replacement players? You mean guys who don't make $2 million a year, but love to play? Sure I would."

In Overland Park, Kan., baseball's problems are having a ripple effect for Gary Pener, who has named one of his twin sons, Brett, after the former Royal star George Brett.

"All I know is my twins are five years old and have been to five opening days," Pener said. "They've been to every one since they've been alive, but I doubt I'll go to an opening day with scab players."

Referring to the chief of the players' union, Pener added: "What makes me mad is Don Fehr looks like he doesn't care. He's in it for Don Fehr and no one else. But owners and players are both wrong, and they've got to fix it because they're alienating a lot of people.

"All me and my kids talk about now is football and basketball. Normally, I'd be getting them baseball cards or autographed stuff for the holidays, but now all I'm getting is Chiefs stuff, University of Missouri stuff. No Royals stuff, whatsoever."

Susan Waldrop, 42, a realtor in Hillsborough, N.C., has had little trouble getting on with her life in the absence of baseball.

"I was surprised at how little I missed it," said Waldrop, who is married and has sons 15 and 12. "I was sort of just disgusted. I end up thinking about human nature in general, and about greed on everybody's part. The ticket prices are getting out of hand.

"Of course, we don't have major league baseball around here. But if we did, we probably couldn't go more than once a season. Average people can't afford to go see baseball very often."