The major league umpires ended their strike today in time for a crew of regulars to work the final game of the National League championship series after the two sides agreed to let baseball's new commissioner, Peter Ueberroth, arbitrate their contract dispute.
A condition of the arbitration is that the umpires will work the World Series starting here Tuesday.
The commissioner's office released a statement saying some basic understandings of the arbitration were worked out today and a final session is set Monday.
"This is an important game and the (World) Series is close enough that we felt we had to put them in," said Richie Phillips, attorney for the umpires' union.
Phillips said both sides will deliver proposals to Ueberroth on Monday and said he expected a decision before the day was up.
He said he had met with the commissioner for two hours this morning shortly after receiving a call from Ueberroth in which baseball's new chief executive had told him, "The fans deserve the best umpires."
"We decided we were close enough to submit the remaining issues to the commissioner for (binding) arbitration," Phillips told ABC-TV. "He is a man I trust . . . I don't think this commissioner will be an owners' commissioner. I trust him."
The umpires are seeking a lump sum of $500,000 to go into a pool for all umpires, including those not selected to work postseason games. Baseball has countered with an offer that is more than $200,000 less.
First word that the regular umpires would work today's game came from National League President Chub Feeney.
"The strike's over," Feeney said as he left the umpires' dressing room at Jack Murphy Stadium. "When Mr. (Richie) Phillips offered to submit it to binding arbitration, I agreed. Wouldn't you?"
In Detroit, American League President Bobby Brown said, "For the past several days, binding arbitration was a possibility we had under consideration. It looked like it would be difficult to get this resolved any other way prior to the World Series."
Veteran umpires John Kibler, Doug Harvey, Paul Runge and John McSherry worked today's game.
Of the four working, Kibler was the only one of the original six-man crew scheduled for the NL series. Because of the short notice -- less than two hours -- the call went to four who reside in the area.
"I came down Friars Road 70 miles an hour to get here," said McSherry. "They called me at 11:45. I ran two red lights."
Substitute umpires had been working both the NL and American League championship series since the strike began after regular season's close.
Until today, Ueberroth had maintained that the contract dispute was a matter between the umpires and the two league presidents. Phillips last week said he thought Ueberroth should get involved.
Today Ueberroth said, "It's the commissioner's duty to arbitrate this. I'm not going to say anything else."
The walkout centered over the issues of pay and assignments for the postseason games, plus job security, areas that were covered for only two years in a four-year agreement between the umpires and baseball signed in April 1982.
A golf cart driver delivered Runge to the umpires' dressing room. Minutes later, Ueberroth and several other men arrived and met for about four minutes inside the dressing room. Leaving, Ueberroth said he would arbitrate.
Ed Vargo, NL umpiring supervisor, said the substitutes -- Terry Bovey, Frank Campagna, Frank Fisher and John Stewart -- took calmly the word that their work was done.
"What could they say? They took it like pros," Vargo said.
As the regular crew headed for the field, they were asked if they were glad to be back at work.
"Yes sir," said Harvey. "We didn't want to leave in the first place."
As the umpires were introduced to the capacity crowd, no mention was made that they were regular major league umpires, but the fans cheered as each was announced. A couple of the umpires tipped their hats.
McSherry was visiting, Runge was at a business office and Harvey and Kibler were at home when called.
"I was watching the Steelers-Miami game on TV and was getting ready to pop some popcorn," Kibler said. "I had shaving cream on . . ."