Making clear their disenchantment with major league baseball's approach to expansion, 14 U.S. senators and D.C. Delegate Walter Fauntroy yesterday announced they have formed a panel that will campaign for the creation of new teams.
"The driving force behind this is the extraordinary interest of fans in our communities," Sen. Timothy E. Wirth (D-Colo.) said in his statement, introducing the Senate Task Force on Expansion of Major League Baseball.
However, it readily became apparent that the task force's muscle will be derived from a different source: baseball's antitrust exemption.
Although Wirth indicated that the task force -- made up of senators from states hoping for expansion teams -- has no plans to introduce legislation that would revoke the exemption, the term "free market" came up in the remarks of several task force members who spoke during a 20-minute news conference at the Capitol.
"If you exclude Texas . . . you really only have one major league baseball team in the entire South and that's in Atlanta," said Sen. John Breaux (D-La.), whose home state would like to have a team playing in the New Orleans Superdome. "There is absolutely no reason from a free enterprise market standpoint why there are not additional major league franchises in some of these major cities around the country and particularly in the South. Our purpose is to deliver that message very clearly and very loudly until something happens."
The task force hopes to be able to deliver its message directly to Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, American League President Bobby Brown and National League President A. Bartlett Giamatti before the month ends.
Yesterday afternoon, a spokesman for Ueberroth said the commissioner will meet with the group "at an appropriate time."
In the meantime, it appeared one established team may be looking for a new home -- but only in Northern California. The election defeat Tuesday of a plan to build a stadium in downtown San Francisco for the Giants means the team "will not be in San Francisco," owner Bob Lurie said.
However, they are likely to be there a while, because their lease doesn't expire until 1994. Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke has been reported in the past to be interested in buying the Giants and bringing them to Washington.
In a telephone interview, Lurie said he talked with Cooke yesterday and said Cooke told him he is still interested in buying the team. "But I told him the exact same thing I told you -- that I'm not intending to move or sell the team. I'm investigating the peninsula -- San Mateo County, including San Jose."
Lurie said his lease with Candlestick Park is not a factor because, by the time he picks a site, develops a plan and builds a stadium, a good portion of the six years on the lease will have expired, anyway, "so we don't have that much time to find a new place."
Cooke declined to comment.