Day 1 of the baseball strike passed Friday with players and owners agreeing to meet with federal mediators in an attempt to settle a walkout that emptied the nation's ballparks and wiped out the weekend's games.
Management negotiator Richard Ravitch said he would meet next week with Labor Secretary Robert Reich. Donald Fehr, head of the Major League Baseball Players Association, said the union would speak with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service during the weekend."I don't know whether they're going to be of any help," Fehr said. "All I can say at this point, I don't think any harm will come from it."
Ravitch also was unsure whether mediation would help end a strike that has interrupted a season filled with record chases and playoff races.
"I think it's tough when a union won't talk about how much money they want to get," he said.
The sides met for two hours Friday, and both said there was no progress in solving baseball's first midseason work stoppage since 1985.
"This has all the indications of being a long one," Fehr said during a another joint television appearance with Ravitch on CNN.
No further meetings were scheduled, and the parties said they probably would meet separately with mediators before calling another bargaining session.
Though mediators can cajole sides toward an agreement through friendly intervention, they are powerless to force sides to agree. In 1981, mediator Kenneth Moffett was unable to get players and owners to agree until the strike reached 50 days.
Owners, meanwhile, imposed a limited gag order on themselves. Executive council chairman Bud Selig said only he and Ravitch will be the official spokesmen for management. Any other owner who wants to speak must get permission from Selig, Ravitch or management's public relations executives.
"It's not a gag order," Selig said by telephone from Milwaukee. "You want people to be well-versed in what they're doing so they know exactly what's going on. Other people will do things locally, but Dick and myself will speak nationally. We're ensuring that people know what the daily events are because they're a lot of people not in the loop. They're spread out all over the country."
Four owners - George Steinbenner of the New York Yankees, Marge Schott of the Cincinnati Reds, Peter Angelos of the Baltimore Orioles and Jerry McMorris of the Colorado Rockies - made critical comments Thursday about either Ravitch or the owners' bargaining stances.
"I hope it doesn't encourage the players to think the owners will abandon their collective bargaining objective," Ravitch said. "My only concern is the players could get the wrong impression from that."
The strike - baseball's eighth walkout since 1972 - began after Thursday night's games ended. The main issue is the union's refusal to allow teams to limit salaries.
Players packed their gear and left ballparks wondering if a deal would be reached to salvage a portion of the season's final 52 days and 669 games. Fourteen games were wiped out Friday.
In Philadelphia, fans rallied against the strike outside Veterans Stadium, holding protest signs and vowing never to attend another game. In Pittsburgh, Pirates manager Jim Leyland was trying to get used to an unwanted summer vacation.
"It's tragic we're not playing," Leyland said. "I'm not happy I can't put on my uniform."
Guided tours continued on schedule at Houston's Astrodome as tourists watched maintenance crews clean up what may be the last tobacco stains of summer off the artificial turf.
Empty orange and blue seats were all you could see at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, where a game against the California Angels had been scheduled.
The union called Friday's unexpected meeting because it wanted a response to revenue-sharing ideas proposed to owners last week. The union claims it is caught in a dispute between large- and small-market clubs, which contend they are unable to redistribute revenue among themselves unless it comes from players. Owners say they must have a salary cap to cure what they say are baseball's economic problems.