The baseball negotiators will return to the sidewalks of New York today, a week after they broke down in the nation's capital and a day after management of the 26 clubs met to discuss ways of ending the players' strike.
The owners held separate league meetings yesterday afternoon, the 48th day of the strike, before convening jointly at the Citicorp building for the second owners' meeting since the strike began on June 12.
After the meeting, which lasted about two hours, Ed Fitzgerald, the chairman of the board of directors of the Player Relations Committee and of the Milwaukee Brewers, said, "No votes were taken but the overwhelming consensus was that the clubs want to bring the strike to a rapid conclusion and reopen the season. We hope to achieve that end through the process of collective bargaining."
One source close to the negotiations speculated that the owners had given their bargaining committee "new marching orders" with which to enter today's talks.
Ray Grebey, the owners' chief negotiator, said, "We've always believed in collective bargaining and felt it would produce a settlement. We still feel that way."
There had been support -- both from federal mediator Kenneth E. Moffett and some owners -- for binding arbitration.
Neither Grebey nor Fitzgerald would say whether the owners planned to alter their negotiating strategy in today's session.
Lee MacPhail, American League president, said he was encouraged by the fact that there was no shouting.
"It was a matter of everybody stating what they felt. We still have to reach an agreement with the other people, though, before the strike can end."
Moffett said he scheduled the meeting for 2 p.m. on his own initiative. "Both sides say they are available," he said. "Neither side is asking for one."
Moffett said nothing had transpired to prompt him to call the meeting other than a desire to know what's going on. "The thing we don't know is what will have come out of the meetings as far as both coasts are concerned."
The Major League Baseball Players Association held its first regional players' meeting in Los Angeles while the owners met in New York.
About 75 players, including Davey Lopes of the Dodgers, who had publicly criticized the players' bargaining team, attended the session in Los Angeles. "I think there was some misconception that myself and some other players who spoke up were not behind the players association," Lopes said. "That's not true. When you've been out of work for a long time, your natural reaction is to question why there hasn't been a settlement.
"We are strong collectively as a unit. We have tremendous confidence in Marvin Miller (the executive director of the association)," Lopes said. "He would never do anything detrimental to the players."
Don Fehr, the general counsel of the association, said the next regional meeting will be held Friday in New York.
The American League owners met for three hours and then took chauffeured limousines for the four-block ride to the joint meeting. Fitzgerald said, "There was nothing significant in our meeting. Our meeting was the training session. Now we start the season."
Steve Greenberg, a player agent who has acted as a go-between in the talks, estimates that the split among the owners is now 15 for the board of directors of the Player Relations Committee and 11 against.
The players clearly feel the next move is up to the owners. Miller said the players would have no new proposals to offer at today's session.