Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, reflecting the sentiments of executives in both leagues, said yesterday he doubts the Baltimore Orioles would garner the necessary votes to shift from the American to the National League, as their chief officer has proposed.
Jerold C.Hoffberger, board chairman of the Orioles, said on Monday that he was considering applying to the leagues for such a shift to block the possibility of another AL club joining the NL and moving to Washington.
"I have heard nothing from the Baltimore club on this, so it is difficult for me to comment," Kuhn said. "On the basis of what I have read in the newspapers I would have doubt the votes can be obtained in either league for what Mr. Hoffberger is proposing."
A transfer of leagues would require the approval of 10 of the 14 AL clubs and nine of the 12 NL clubs. If such approval were given, it would create two 13-club leagues with limited inter-league play.
In December, the NL suspended its unanimous-consent rule. Only nine affirmative votes would be needed to approve a plan that would facilitate the return of baseball to Washington.
Under most current proposals, the most likely plan would be expansion by the NL to take in an AL club as a 13th member and move it to Washington. The Orioles, as an AL club, can veto another club in their league from moving into Washington, leaving the city's chances for another franchise resting with the NL.
Because of this, Hoffberger said he wants the Orioles to become the 13th NL club and let the AL worry about solving the Washington problem by placing one of its troubled franchises here.
NL president Charles S. (Chub) Feeney said yesterday that Hoffberger has not contacted him and added, "You can't consider anything until you know what it's all about."
Feeney added that the NL is concerned about finding solutions that would accommodate Washington. "The talk about going to 13-club leagues and interleague play are all involved in putting a club in Washington," he said.
AL president Lee S. MacPhail already has said he does not expect his league would want to let one of its better, established teams join the NL.
Club officials in both leagues discounted Hoffberger's proposal as being a solution for Washington.
Clark Griffith, vice president of the Minnesota Twins, told the Baltimore Morning Sun, "I think the problem is still Washington and the (AL) doesn't intend to put a team in Washington. I don't think Jerry's idea will get off the ground."
Walter F. O'Malley, owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, said yesterday he thought it would be indelicate to comment on what the (AL) might want to do.
But, O'Malley said, "For the (NL) to have a team in Baltimore isn't the same thing as having an (NL) team in Washington.
"I think the (NL) would not consider going to 13 clubs unless we're going to put a club in Washington. The only time, I think, the (NL) would look favorably on interleague play would be if there were two 13-club leagues and one of the clubs was in Washington."
Rep. B. F. Sisk (D-Calif.), who has spearheaded congressional efforts to persuade baseball that Washington is worthy of another franchise, was not pleased with Hoffberger's proposal.
"We would not in anyway support efforts by Mr. Hoffberger to convert the Baltimore club into (an NL) club and, hopefully, the owners will see the ploy being used by Mr. Hoffberger," said Sisk.