On the 34th day of the baseball strike, anger took the place of hope. The day, which began optimistically with Secretary of Labor Raymond J. Donovan visiting the negotiations, ended with the players feeling deceived and puzzled.
The players had expected a proposal from management. There was none; their reaction was predictable. Don Fehr, general counsel of the Major League Baseball Players Association, said: "Everyone on our committee is angry, irate. We came in from all across the country today. We heard the same reports you did, that they would make a proposal. We did not ask for this meeting. We got nothing from them. Literally not a piece of paper, zero, zilch."
Bob Boone of the Phillies, the National League representative, said: "It's a little upsetting to have games played with you. We got no proposal from the other side. We were told at a late hour that they'd have something for us tomorrow. I don't like wasting my time, running up to New York."
The talks recessed at 7 p.m., after approximately 1 1/2 hours of face-to-face talks. Federal mediator Kenneth E. Moffett said talks would be resumed at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, and little else.
"The mediator told us they didn't want to meet anymore this evening," Boone said as he left the Doral Inn. "He said they would have something for us in the morning."
Mark Belanger, the Orioles' player representative, said: "I'm mad. I expected a proposal today. It didn't come, I expect a proposal tomorrow. If it doesn't come tomorrow, it will all hit the fan."
Reached at home tonight, Lee MacPhail, president of the American League, indicated that the optimism about today's meeting had been unwarranted. "Everyone knows we've been trying to do something," MacPhail said. "Why aren't they trying to do something? They're sitting back waiting for us to make a proposal. Just because we're trying to get together one doesn't mean it's going to solve it."
Asked whether it was wrong to be pessimistic, MacPhail said, "Maybe there is reason to be gloomy. . . We have a big gap. There was nothing that happened today to make you believe the gap was substantially narrowed. We'll see what happens tomorrow."
The developments, or lack of them, surprised nearly everyone. Before leaving for Washington, Donovan said: "I asked them to get back to serious negotiating and they did. I'm very pleased."
The secretary left open the possibility that, if there was no settlement, he might summon the parties to Washington to continue negotiations.
But earlier in the day, that did not appear to be necessary. Donovan left the hotel saying there was a nice spirit" on the 17th floor of the hotel where the negotiations were taking place.
Dick Moss, a consulting attorney to the players association, said: "One of the messages the secretary brought, he said he had talked with the president last night (Tuesday) and the president asked him to convey to us that his prayers are with us in the negotiations. They (the owners) have no regard, not only for the person, but the office of the presidency."
Certainly, the indications before today's meetings were positive. There had been communication between the two sides after the talks broke off Saturday, and some felt that perhaps they were ready to settle. Several management sources said Tuesday they would not be surprised if the owners made a proposal today.
When there was none, a source close to the players said, the players were not only "shocked but deceived." The question is why nothing materialized. One source close to the players association said he thought one of the reasons might be that the bargaining committee lacks authority to make a settlement.
One management source emphatically denied that the committee lacks the authority to make a proposal or a settlement. However, he, too, was at a loss to explain what had happened. Told of the players' anger, he said: "I don't blame them."