A kind of a hush fell over the baseball talks yesterday as negotiators prepared to return to the bargaining table today, during one of baseball's traditionally biggest weekends.
The meeting, scheduled for 11 a.m., should make it clear whether there is any foundation to the growing speculation that there will be a movement in the 22-day-old strike or whether the stalemate will continue indefinitely.
Jerry Reinsdorf, one of the owners of the Chicago White Sox, said yesterday, "I suspect our side will propose something new."
Reinsdorf said it was his understanding that the board of directors of the Player Relations Committee met yesterday in New York.
"I hope it means we're going to advance something new," Reinsdorf said. "We're at the point in the strike, where if it's going to get settled, there's going to have to be movement from one side or the other."
If our side makes a significant move, the players will have to make a significant move, too," he added. "Both sides are going to have to work toward the middle."
Reinsdorf said he spoke with Ray Grebey, the owners' chief negotiator, yesterday morning, and that no progress was made during talks on Thursday. "we did not move closed to them and they did not move closer to us," he said.
But Reinsdorf added, "I'm encouraged by the fact that they are meeting on the Fourth of July, that the Player Relations Committee meeting was called and it's not a regularly scheduled meeting. They called people back from long weekends. You can only infer hope. And everyone wants to infer hope."
A spokesman for the Player Relations Committee refused to confirm or deny that the board of directors met yesterday, saying "Ray is in almost constant touch with the board of directors of the Player Relations Committee. He was in touch with them today in one way or another."
Two highly placed management sources said they believed there was reason for hope. One official said late Thursday, "For the first time there is a glimmer of hope. They are talking on the same page. They are coming closer together."
Another management official said, "I think there is some merit in that. I sense a little optimism. But it's just a feel, that's all."
But, as one source close to the negotiations said, "Some people see a glimmer of hope. Some don't. It won't become obvious until Saturday."
In the meantime, getting a feeling for what is happening is a little like reading tea leaves. Asked to comment on the statement that there was a glimmer of hope, Grebey early yesterday had no comment. "You are free to make any interpretation you want. I read in the papers that Reggie Jackson was encouraged (by Thursday's meeting) and he was never there. And (Mark) Belanger was discouraged and he wasn't there.
"There just ain't any news," Grebey said.
Jackson and Belanger were at the negotiations Thursday but did not participate in the face-to-face talks.
The players association didn't have much to say yesterday, either. Partly that was because "it's impossible to get a feel for what's going on," said Peter Rose, the associate counsel of the players association. And partly it was because if there was something going on, they did not want to jeopardize it.
"Our read is that he (Grebey) is under a lot of pressure," Rose said. "Either they're going to put the wagons in a circle or they're going to negotiate with the Indians. We don't know which."
But, he added, "Our feeling is that we are basically in the same place we were in May, 1980."
When Steve Rogers, the player representative of the Expos, was asked Thursday about the possibility of playing the All-Star game on July 14, he replied, "The way things are going, I start wondering about the 1982 All-Star game."
Grebey denied that the owners were feeling any pressure to settle because of the hearings on the National Labor Relations Board unfair labor practice case scheduled to begin Monday. "We won in Philadelphia, we won in Rochester and we'll win this one, too," Grebey said.
However, Grebey said that the hearings coud interfere with the bargaining process, with negotiations continuing to "some limited extent. It will certainly make any further bargaining difficult," Grebey said. "Any extraneous efforts and diversions from the issue have got to have an impact."
Dan Silverman, the regional director of the NLRB, told The New York Times yesterday that the hearing could be delayed if there were significant movement in the negotiations.