The executive board of the Major League Baseball Players Association met for 5 1/2 hours last night in Chicago and when they were done the message was simple: solidarity forever.
The 26 player representatives authorized their bargaining committee to begin a series of regional meetings with players to update them on the status of the 47-day old strike.The first meeting will take place Wednesday morning in Los Angeles.
Bill Madlock, one of about 30 other players attending last night's meeting, said, "The meeting showed Marvin (Miller, the executive director of the players association) that there is no dissension, no breaks in the ranks. I think 98 percent are behind him 100 percent."
Madlock said the players had reviewed the owners' latest proposal and "it came down to asking if they (the player representatives) would get a majority on it. Everyone said no."
Madlock, who said that some owners have shown interest in meeting directly with players to explain their proposal, decided to attend the meeting because he didn't feel he was getting all the facts while sitting home in Pittsburgh. Miller echoed his sentiments. "About half the players here tonight didn't have the facts. Once they were given, the players became convinced of the rightness and gave us 100 percent support."
None of the players who vocally criticized the union -- Champ Summers and Dan Schatzeder of the Tigers and Davey Lopes of the Dodgers -- attended.
The results of the meeting were hardly unexpected. However, the show of strength, and the decision to hold the regional meetings beginning Wednesday, will have a decided impact on events this week.
Lee MacPhail, president of the American League, confirmed that his league's 14 teams will meet Wednesday at 1 p.m. in New York and Ray Grebey, the owners' chief negotiator, confirmed that all 26 owners will meet later that afternoon, also in New York.
It is unclear what, if anything, the meetings will accomplish. The American League meeting was requested by eight teams: the New York Yankees, California Angels, Oakland A's, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox.
The meeting of the Player Relations Committee -- that is, the 26 clubs -- was called in response. "It flowed organically from it," said Clark Griffith of the Twins, a member of the board of directors of the PRC. "If we have an American League meeting, the National League says we better have one, too, and so, we say, let's just have a big one."
But, Griffith said, "Smoke's a good term for all this. I don't think it'll change things at all in terms of the position of the 26 clubs."
Jerry Reinsdorf, the coowner of the White Sox, said, "Different teams (in the American League) called it for different reasons. Some called it because they think the PRC has gone too far. Others feel it hasn't gone far enough and others just want to know what's going on."
Other than the meetings, very little.Federal mediator Kenneth E. Moffett said he had spoken with both Marvin Miller, the executive director of the players association, and Grebey and that "the essence is that Marvin won't make himself available for negotiations until at least Thursday. I will talk with both sides again tomorrow (Tuesday)."
Grebey said, "If there's been a week lost, the players association lost it. Marvin's unavailability is no fault of Major League Baseball."
"I've lost my sympathy with the players," Reinsdorf said. "I feel at this point that what they can achieve is not worth what they're giving up. I think Marvin's shooting for Sept. 1. I think he wrote off August.
"It (the season) may be gone. I think it is gone, except that miracles always can happen. . . I think the players have won. I have nothing but contempt and disgust for them not ending this. There is no significant restriction on the mobility of players when you can protect 24 (men on the roster). Now they are just trying to punish the owners. But they are punishing some of their own players, too."
But, as Eddie Chiles, the owner of the Texas Rangers said, unless one side caves in in the next three or four days, the chances for baseball this season are remote. Asked if that were a likelihood, Chiles and, "I hope not. I don't see any chance of either side totally caving in. I like to think both sides are made of better stuff than that. We've carried it this long. For the prupose of maybe playing a little baseball, caving in would be done for the wrong reason."
Roy Eisenhardt, president of the Oakland A's, said he expected no action at the American League meeting, only discussion.
MacPhail said the clubs would discuss "strike issues. We're certainly not going to talk about the 1982 schedule. . . It's the last week to make decisions that will keep the season going or not."
The players, meanwhile, seem to be standing by their original decision.
"Everybody wants it settled," said Madlock, "but for us, going backwards for something that courts gave us, that we just can't do."