The Baltimore Orioles, whose future home and ownership are in doubt because the club is for sale, have asked for a one-year extension of their Memorial Stadium lease.
Oriole General Manager Hank Peters said yesterday the club asked the city for the extension to cover the 1980 season after notifying authorities that the club did not want to exercise its option for a two-year renewal.
The club had until Saturday to make that decision or the lease automatically would have been extended through the 1981 season.
The Orioles also are requesting the right to renew any future leases on a year-to-year rather than two-year basis. Annual renewals had been a common practice in the past and the team has even played without a lease in some years.
A spokesman for Baltimore Mayor William D. Schaefer said yesterday that the mayor expects the Orioles' requests to be approved.
Commenting on the club's request for only a one-year extension, Peters said, "If there should be a change in ownership - and the club is still for sale, as everyone knows - the new owner would be in a position to negotiate his own lease."
Jerold C. Hoffberger, the club's principal owner, is out of the country and not expected back until Monday. Because of Hoffberger's absence, Peters said, talks have been completely dead as far as a sale is concerned, to my knowledge."
Hoffberger, who is seeking $12 million for the franchise, is known to have had preliminary discussions about a possible sale with Washington Redskins President Edward Bennett Williams.
Williams, friends say, is not enamored with the split-franchise concept advocated by some as a means of satisfying baseball fans in both Baltimore and Washington, and would prefer to move the club here.
Hoffberger would have been in an embarrassing position if the club had decided to terminate its lease at the end of this season. After years of Hoffberger threats to sell the club if attendance didn't increase, fans are pouring through the turnstiles in record numbers.
As of yesterday, 673,858 fans had attended Oriole games, 149,411 above last year's attendance at this time. The Birds are averaging 20,412 per games, the first time in history their average has topped 20,000.
The fan explosion is unprecendented for a team that has always done well on the field, but has had an embarrassing box office performance.
If Hoffberger were to announce a sale now or cancel the lease outright, he would create a lame-duck franchse and chill the Baltimore fans' newly rekindled love affair with the team, observers say.
"We would like to have had a two-year extension (on the lease), but a one-year extension is a very positive sign," said a spokesman for the mayor. "But this gives the fans an opportunity to demonstrate if they want baseball here."
The terms of the lease for next season would be the same they are now: The Orioles pay the city 1 percent on their first million dollars in ticket receipts, 2 percent on the second million, 3 percent on the third, 7 percent on the next half-million and 10 percent on everything over $3.5 million. And the Orioles are allowed to play up to 13 dates elsewhere.