The baseball talks are temporarily out to lunch. Representatives for the owners left today's meeting for lunch -- after an hour-long session the tone of which was described as conciliatory -- and never came back.
Although Marvin Miller, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, said there had been no movement in the negotiations, there were indications of movement within the owenrship ranks.
"They (the owners_ felt they needed some time for an internal consultation and they would let us know whether they could meet later today," Miller added.
American League President Lee MacPhail said, "The discussion went as far as it could for the moment without doing some more homework."
A spokesman for the owners' Player Relations Committee said later that its negotiators "could not get back this afternon. They asked if it (the meeting) could be put off and it was."
Federal mediator Kenneth E. Moffett scheduled negotiations to resume Saturday at 11 a.m. "I'm more optimistic than I was when I came up here," Moffett said. "But I can 't say whether there is progress or a lack of progress."
Members of the executive board of the Player Relations Committee were reported to be on their way to New York, and sources said the executive board would meet here Friday with Ray Grebey, the owners' chief negotiator.
Grebey was in meetings all afternoon and could not be reached for comment.
There were differing opinions about the significance of the recess, which came on the 21st day of the strike, and just five days before the National Labor Relations Board's hearings are to begin on the unfair labor practice charge against the owners.
Several owners and other management officials, including Grebey, MacPhail, Calvin Griffith of the Minnesota Twins, Ruly Carpenter of the Philadelphia Phillies, Jerry Reinsdorf or Eddie Einhorn of the Chicago White Sox, Joe Burke of the Kansas City Royals and Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, will be available to testify. Daniel Silverman, regional director of the NLRB, said the "likelihood is that some will testify."
There was some speculation that the apporach of the hearings, and possible testimony by owners, might be prompting movement in the talks. But members of the players' negotiating team were not convinced.
"It's almost like a hurry up, go slow," Miller said. "I was kind of surprises at the end of the discussion to later learn that they needed all this time. It seemed out of context. I don't want to read anything of significance into it because I don't know what to read. You shouldn't make too much of this. They work in mysterious ways."
Today's meeting was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. and was postponed for an hour at the Player Relations Committee's request. But its representatives did not arrive until 11:30
The parties met face to face, Miller said, in a "so-called smaller meeting," with American League player representative Doug DeCinces of the Orioles; the National League's Bob Boone of the Phillies; Don Fehr, general counsel of the players association; Grebey; his lawyer, Barry Rona, and Miller present.
Miller called it "a fairly general discussion" and said neither side made any new proposals. He declined to be more specific, saying, "I could but I don't think I should be."
Asked if he thought something had been said during the meeting that had made it necessary for the owners to recess to meet by themselves, he said, "I hope so." But, he added, "We're had too many false starts to be optimistic."
Mark Belanger agreed. "I can't be optimistic," he said. "I have gotten myself into a optimistic state too many times."
But Reggie Jackson, the Yankees' player representatives, who was attending his second meeting since the strike began, was not as cautious. "I can't use the word 'optimistic,'" he said. "That leads to false ideas because then people think something might happen. But people are talking, they're making an effort. Movement is not the right word. There is some meeting of the minds on the way."