Negotiators for players and owners met separately with federal mediators Saturday, though there were no signs on the full first weekend without baseball that the strike would end anytime soon.
Management negotiator Richard Ravitch, dressed casually in a purple polo shirt, said after his meeting that no new bargaining sessions are scheduled although he expected the sides would meet this week."Mediation can be very, very helpful in resolving disputes," Ravitch said. "It's not a panacea."
Union head Donald Fehr met with the mediators later in the day and said he still believed the strike could be lengthy, perhaps as long as the 50-day strike in 1981.
"It appears things have settled in for awhile," he said. "The atmosphere reminds me of 1981 more each and every day."
Fehr said he anticipated no progress until the owners drop their salary cap demand.
"This is a dispute of the owners' making and it will not end until the owners decide to end it," he said. "Until then, there's nothing the players can do."
While America went through its first weekend without major league baseball, there still were NFL exhibitions and minor league baseball games to fill the gap. The minors drew increased interest and attendance because of the strike - and had a no-hitter Friday night.
In New Orleans, Scott Taylor pitched his first no-hitter in six years as a pro, leading the Zephyrs over the Buffalo Bisons 6-0 in the American Association.
"I can't believe it happened," said Taylor, a 27-year-old who in normal times might have gained a trip to the big leagues. "I couldn't believe it right up to the last batter."
Colombus drew 11,502 Friday night for its 6-2 loss to Richmond in the International League, up from its average attendance of 7,347.
Baseball's eighth work stoppage since 1972 was caused by the owners' insistence on a salary cap, which the union says it will never accept. It wiped out 14 more games Saturday, raising the total to 28, and threatens the final 52 days and 669 games of the season.
After numerous urgings from the Clinton administration, the sides finally agreed Friday to bring in the mediation service, which last assisted the parties during the 50-day strike in 1981. Both sides met with three officials from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service and one from the Labor Department.
"I don't want to create any unreal expectations," Ravitch said. "This meeting was to get them acquainted with the issues."
Owners wants players to agree to a fixed percentage of baseball's revenue each year or a specified dollar amount. Players prefer the free-market system that has helped the average salary escalate from $51,501 in 1976 to $1,188,679 this year.
While mediators can beg and plead with each side, and can carry messages, they are powerless to impose a settlement. Fehr said the primary significance of mediators in 1981 was to call meetings when neither side wanted to.
"I don't think on the central issues that the result would have been any different," he said.
Fehr said he didn't think there would be one single mediator for awhile and said the union would be in contact with the mediators each day. He didn't foresee an immediate return to the bargaining table.
Players say they're angered when they listen to Ravitch at bargaining sessions.
"Every meeting he brings the same rhetoric," Baltimore Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina said. "He's like Aesop, but there's no moral to the fable."