On the 40th day of the baseball strike, and the second day of the press blackout, negotiators for the owners and the players met and parted without giving the slightest clue whether they were closer to a settlement.
When the talks broke off at 5:30 a.m., Nancy Broff, the acting general council of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, said, "The parties met today both seperately and jointly. The secretary (of Labor, Raymond J. Donovan) attended all the sessions. He will attend tomorrow."
The talks will be resumed today at 10 a.m.
As he left the building at 21st and K street NW, Donovan was engulfed by reporters. Asked if he would attend all day, Donovan said, "I don't know."
Both Donovan and Broff declined to comment on whether there had been any progress in the talks.
But there was no indication, based on the time for which the parties met, or even their tone in declining to discuss the situation, that anything of consequence had happened to improve the situation.
John McMullen, owner of the Houston Astros, said, "I just think he (Donovan) has done a magnificent service to baseball and its fans. There's not a doubt in my mind that they would not be meeting this week . . ." t
Several management sources not directly involved in the negotiations have expressed the opinion that if the strike is not settled this week, the season will be in jeopardy. McMullen agreed: "This is the critical week," he said. "That's just how I feel. It's terribly important that it be resolved this week" because of "the practical aspects of playing the rest of the season."
While no one would talk about the action, or lack of it, in the negotiating sessions, there was the possibility there would be some away from the table. It was learned that Bowie Kuhn, commissioner of baseball, is in Washington, along with all but one of the members of the board of directors of the owners' Player Relations Committee.
Ed Fitzgerald, a member of the board of directors of the Milwaukee Brewers and the chairman of the board of directors of the player relations committee, emained in Milwaukee. It is understood that the board of directors met all day yesterday.
Reached at his hotel last night, Kuhn confirmed that he had met with the Board of Directors of the PRC. "I just try to keep up to date with them," he said. "Whenever I think its important, I'm apt to be there from time to time."
Asked why it was important to meet with them yesterday, Kuhn said, "The involvement of the secretary adds an element."
Kuhn said he was not sure what impact Donovan's presence was having. He declined to comment on the status of the negotiations or the meeting with the PRC because it would be "inconsistent with what the secretary has asked."
None of the principals in the negotiations were daying much, either. As he left the negotiations, Marvin Miller, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, was asked whether negotiations would continue if there was no progress. Miller said, "We have a duty to bargain. Like I said to someone, where else is there to go?"
Miller declined to say whether any new proposals had been made yesterday by either side.
Talks began yesterday at around 9:30 a.m. and continued for four hours.
They returned to the bargaining table at 3 and continued until about 5:30, during which time they presumably met face to face. Broff said. "We had everything (face-to-face talks, cauceses, private sessions)."