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OWNERS DISCUSS USE OF REPLACEMENT PLAYERS

More and more, owners are talking about using replacement players next spring if there's no agreement with striking major leaguers.

"I'm one that's willing to play ball next year if that's what we have to do," Colorado Rockies owner Jerry McMorris said this week during the congressional hearing on baseball's antitrust exemption. "I don't want that, but I have responsibilities to a lot of people."Acting commissioner Bud Selig said the issue hasn't been addressed, but said Friday he will appoint a committee to think about how owners will proceed.

Other owners and officials already are talking about it on their own. Replacement players were used by baseball owners to break strikes early this century and by the NFL owners in 1987.

"It will be a difficult thing to do, but at last resort I think you'd have to consider it," Boston Red Sox chief executive officer John Harrington said. "You wouldn't call it major league baseball, but you'd call it professional baseball."

Owners believe current major leaguers will come back if they see replacements take their spots during spring training. And they believe that if they open the season with replacements, a large percentage of fans still will attend games and watch on television.

"Kansas City's going to have professional baseball next year if I have anything to do with it," Royals CEO David Glass said, adding that he thought general manager Herk Robinson would be able to recruit a team. "I know Mr. Robinson will take the best 25 players available to him from whatever source."

If owners do open camps with replacements, they face two tests:

- Will minor leaguers not on 40-man rosters break ranks and play?

- Will fans pay major league ticket prices to watch them?

McMorris said the Rockies wouldn't lower ticket prices, which will be as much as $26 when Coors Field opens next April.

"We'll field the best possible team we can and will give people fair value," McMorris said.

The Major League Baseball Players Association said it is confident its members wouldn't return if owners open camps.

"Absent an agreement, they will not be playing major league baseball games on opening day," said Eugene Orza, the union's No. 2 official.

Striking major leaguers said there's no chance replacements could break the strike. They don't think replacements would attract many fans.

"They might go, but I don't think so," Carlos Baerga of the Cleveland Indians said Friday, "Their heroes will not be playing. They will be watching A-ball guys, Double-A guys and Triple-A guys."

All that could change, however, if Congress intervenes. The strike would end if the antitrust amendments proposed by Rep. Mike Snyar, D-Okla., and Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, D-Ohio, become law. There's little chance of that happening before Congress adjourns next month, but the lawmakers say there's plenty of time. Rep. Jack Brooks, the Texas Democrat who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, made that clear at the end of Thursday's hearing.

"I would remind the parties that while the 103rd Congress may adjourn in the next several weeks, the 104th Congress is scheduled to return in January - well before the 1995 spring training begins and well before the scheduled season opening on April 2," he said. "Don't think for a moment that Congress will forget the sorry spectacle we have witnessed in the summer of 1994."

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Additional Information

On this day . . .

- In 1965, Satchel Paige, at 60, became the oldest man to play in the majors as he pitched three scoreless innings for Kansas City over the Boston Red Sox. Paige gave up one hit, to Carl Yastrzemski.

- In 1984, Rusty Staub of the Mets hit a homer run and became only the second player to hit homers as a teen-ager and a 40 year-old. Ty Cobb was the other. ||||||||||||||||||||| JUNK |||||||||||||||||||||

940925 25STRI SCOTTY;09/25,10:47 jsgphoto ~

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