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Baseball players and owners ended their fight with a truce ra

April 3, 1995 GMT

CHICAGO (AP) _ Baseball players and owners ended their fight with a truce rather than a peace.

After 234 days, more than $800 million in losses, no World Series and not even a settlement, the longest and costliest work stoppage in the history of professional sports finally ended Sunday night.

Owners accepted the union’s offer to play without an agreement. The season, which had been scheduled to start Sunday night, will begin April 26 and each team will play 144 games, 18 fewer than the usual. Replacement players were sent packing.

``I don’t regard it as a surrender,″ acting commissioner Bud Selig said following a 4 1/2-hour owners meeting. ``The players were on strike, they made an unconditional offer to come back, and we accepted that offer.″

Players didn’t make a no-strike pledge and owners didn’t make a no-implementation agreement. The union could walk out again late this season if owners again threaten to impose a salary cap.

``Anyone who has gone through this eight-month experience will let it serve as a poignant reminder that we have a responsibility to make sure it will never happen again, certainly in our lifetime,″ Selig said.

Far more difficult than getting players back on the field may be the job baseball faces of restoring the country’s faith in the game.

Though it has faced seven previous work stoppages, this time baseball returns battered and berated by fans who grew weary of what President Clinton described as ``just a few hundred folks trying to figure out how to divide nearly $2 billion.″

Players may report voluntarily starting Wednesday to training camps in Florida and Arizona, although some were expected to start trickling in today. The mandatory reporting date is Friday.

In West Palm Beach, Fla., this morning, outfielder Ryan Klesko was the first Atlanta Brave to show up at training camp, taking an hour of batting practice wearing sweat pants and a T-shirt.

``It’s good to be here, but I’d still like to see an agreement that says we’ll play the whole year,″ Klesko said. ``I’d hate to see this happen again.″

Until a week ago, there had been speculation owners might lock out players if the union ended the strike without a deal. But the pro-lockout faction, after determining it could not obtain the necessary 21 votes from among the 28 teams, did not even call for a vote.

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``When the clubs heard all the evidence today on what to do and what not to do, the three-quarters became academic,″ Selig said.

The strike wiped out the final 52 days and 669 games of the 1994 season and forced the cancellation of the World Series for the first time since 1904. It also wiped out the first 252 games of this season, raising the total of games lost to 921.

`I think it’s a first step,″ union head Donald Fehr said. ``Hopefully it’s a big step in setting a better mood. One thing that could make me a lot more pleased, of course, is concluding a new long-term agreement.

The sides still must work toward a deal to replace the collective bargaining agreement that expired on Dec. 31, 1993. Players who walked out last Aug. 12 ended the strike Friday _ the 232nd day _ after U.S. District Judge Sonia Sotomayor issued an injunction forcing owners to continue the work rules of the expired agreement.

``The clubs hope the entire 1995 season _ including all postseason competition _ will be played without interruption or interference,″ Selig said.

Clinton, who failed two months ago in a personal effort to end the strike, said: ``Today’s decision is good news for the game of baseball, its fans and the local economies of the cities where baseball is played.

``While I am heartened to know this season will start with major league players, there are a number of underlying issues which still need to get resolved.″

Baseball’s eighth work stoppage since 1972 was caused by the owners’ demand for a salary cap. Both sides expected to finalize the back-to-work agreement on today. Exhibition games will begin on April 13, and teams may carry expanded rosters of 28 players _ three more than the usual limit _ through May 15.

The sides also have to work out the dates for salary arbitration filing and hearings, which probably will run into the first few weeks of the season. Players, who lost 28 percent of their salary last year, will lose 11 percent this year.

No date has been determined for the next bargaining session.

``I assume there will be discussions of when and how in the next few days,″ Selig said.

All but forgotten in the rush to return were the replacement players. On Saturday, a day after Sotomayor’s decision, management’s labor lawyers told teams to release the replacements by the end of the day.

``The owners got a high fastball under the chin and their knees buckled,″ said Billy Fultz, a replacement pitcher with the Cincinnati Reds. ``That’s about the way I feel about it.″

Oil Can Boyd, who hoped replacement ball would launch his comeback, was immediately released by the Chicago White Sox.

``I feel like I was used,″ the pitcher said.

The decision to release all the replacement players was made so owners didn’t commit Sunday to paying $25,000 bonuses to each of the 32 replacements on each of the 28 teams, a total of $22.4 million.

``It felt like it was our money already,″ said Tim Dell, a replacement pitcher with the Milwaukee Brewers. ``The closer it got to opening day, the more we thought it was our money and the more it felt like if we didn’t get it, they were taking it from us.″

Florida Marlins owner H. Wayne Huizenga of the Florida Marlins did pay up, giving each of the substitute players on his team a $25,000 bonus. That’s in addition to $5,000 the team was obligated to pay each player for signing on during the strike.

This marks the third time opening day was pushed back by a work stoppage. A strike in 1972 delayed it from April 1 to April 15, and a lockout in 1990 pushed it back from April 2 to April 9.