For a couple of days there, it seemed major league baseball was intent on administering itself another beanball in the form of a players' strike that would ruin the season or mar it irreparably with a snowstorm of asterisks in the record books. It didn't, thanks largely to Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth's putting himself where he needed to be this week -- in the middle of the activity -- and helping bring forth a compromise before the strike had gone too far.
The tentative contract is for five years. The players get a larger contribution to their pension fund, but give up a little on arbitration of salaries, while the owners agree to . . . but enough -- read about it in the financial pages. The point is that the beer and pretzel vendors, the ushers, clubhouse boys and grounds crews will be back at the park, the seats will be filled, and tomorrow the league standings -- unchanged as a tombstone the past two days -- will resume their fascinating fluctuations.
This is what really mattered to the public, which has come to see baseball labor disputes as an argument between rich people over money. The players' average salary is over $360,000, nearly 10 times what it was a decade ago, before the era of the free agent. The new contract may do a little to rein in salaries, but owners will probably continue to portray themselves as being driven to the wall by the exorbitant demands of their athletes.
The contract will also provide for the clubs' first venture into revenue-sharing. The players gave up some of the pension money they sought on condition that it be used to help financially troubled teams. Mr. Ueberroth has been saying for some time that he is worried by the frequency with which franchises are being bought and sold because of financial problems. Revenue-sharing may provide a degree of stability, although no amount of it is likely to keep teams forever in cities where people resolutely refuse to attend their games.