Even though it was getting late in the day and no new meetings had been scheduled between representatives of the major league baseball players and the club owners, Earl Weaver's voice was strong as he expressed optimism that a baseball strike would be averted.
"Nobody's on strike yet," Weaver said from Toronto. "I'm very encouraged from what I hear that there can still be a settlement. Very encouraged. My thoughts were that there would be an extension of the deadline . . . "
Weaver had plenty of time to think about the strike because his Baltimore Orioles were off yesterday. Only four of the players went on to Toronto, where the team was scheduled to begin a three-game series today. The other 21 returned to Baltimore.
The team's player representative, Scott McGregor, along with Fred Lynn, Storm Davis and rookie Al Pardo, were those who went from Cleveland (where Baltimore played Sunday) to Toronto.
But Weaver said there would be "nothing disruptive" about a last-second settlement.
"Our players are doing what they normally would on an off day; hopefully they're at home enjoying themselves," he said. "But everything is arranged. They're all scheduled to be here by 11:30 (a.m.)."
Floyd Rayford, one of the Orioles who spent the day in Baltimore, was at home waiting to hear from McGregor, or anyone who could give him some definite news about the strike. Rayford joked that he was on his way to a video store in Cockeysville, Md., to get some strike insurance.
"I'm a westerns fanatic," Rayford said. " 'High Noon,' 'Shane,' 'Magnificent Seven,' I've got 'em all out. I'm ready . . . It really seems like, though, that with all those meetings they're having, that more progress might have been made by now."
Rayford, since becoming the regular third baseman 11 games ago, had hit .356 with three home runs and five runs batted in to bring his season totals up to .326 with six homers and 17 RBI.
Weaver, and the man he replaced in mid-June as Baltimore's manager -- Joe Altobelli -- agreed that a players strike would not do much permanent damage to the relationship between the game and its fans.
"I don't think any dumbness by any part is going to disturb the game of baseball because too many people like it," Altobelli said.
Weaver recalled the 50-day strike in 1981 and said, "Since then, people have come out ot the parks in record numbers." Weaver added jokingly, "If they come, wonderful. We want them to come. If they don't come back, well, the owners will have to get closed-circuit TV for the games."
Altobelli also has a vested interest. He is hoping to get another job in baseball, but thinks the strike would hurt his chances for getting hired again before the season ends.
"If there's a strike this season I think everything goes dead as far as I'm concerned," he said. "Who the hell wants to hire somebody if there's a strike? I really personally hope everything works out . . . so they can continue playing and hopefully enhance my chance of coming back somewhere."