DALLAS, DEC. 7 -- Baseball's 1987 winter meetings were less than an hour old today, and the news on expansion was about the same for cities such as Washington, Denver and Tampa.
Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth included only a brief mention of it in his annual "State of the Game" address, and again emphasized his support for it. He said the game's improving financial health boded well for expansion and that this year's biggest-ever amateur draft was evidence that a body of talent was available.
But for anyone hoping for a timetable or something more concrete, statements by Ueberroth and other baseball officials fell short of expectations today.
"I'm sure there's going to be expansion," Philadelphia Phillies owner Bill Giles said. "I just don't know when it's going to be. Right now, there's just no momentum for it. That could change, but I don't know when."
In other developments today, Ueberroth reported significant progress in increasing the number of blacks and Hispanics in front-office jobs, but admitted that much work remains to be done.
He also met with representatives of The Baseball Network, a group working toward increasing minority representation in baseball administration. Sources said Ueberroth and the group had a friendly meeting, and that one of their agreements was that The Baseball Network wouldn't make statements critical of the game.
"We feel the meeting was extremely productive," Willie Stargell said, "and we're very excited about that. There's never been a meeting of this kind before. We'd all like to see dramatic changes, but it's a slow process."
One of their agreements is that when job openings arise The Baseball Network will provide Ueberroth and teams with a list of available and qualified minority candidates.
Meanwhile, Ueberroth said expansion would be discussed at the league meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday and he would make a report. However, he offered no real encouragement, and various sources said any definitive statement could be a year or more away.
That was especially disappointing news to the candidate cities, including Washington, which was represented by City Councilman Frank Smith and others, who came armed with a slick new brochure on the city and dozens of handshakes.
"I was pretty disappointed in what he said," said Smith, chairman of the D.C. Baseball Commission. "I'd really expected more. He keeps referring to the criteria, but I think we meet all the criteria and have for a long time."
The more important criteria include local ownership, the support of local government and a stadium. Washington doesn't yet have the stadium, and the improvements on RFK have been delayed to build more seats for the Redskins.
"We're going to get that work done," Smith said. "We could be ready in three months, and we're going to go ahead with the work."
A source near Ueberroth said the commissioner believes that some key owners, including the Los Angeles Dodgers' Peter O'Malley, now favor expansion. These people believe that the momentum may have turned in favor of expansion, and a timetable could be established in the next 12 months.
A year ago, Ueberroth challenged baseball to improve the game's record on hiring minorities, and today Ueberroth brought a battery of statistics with him.
"The increase in front-office employment by minorities in baseball is over 400 percent, approaching nearly 500 percent," Ueberroth said. "There are 1,500 front-office positions in major league baseball. Less than 2 percent were filled by minorities a year ago. Over 10 percent are filled by minorities today. More than 600 of them are filled by women, so almost half of the front-office positions are filled by women and minoritites . . .
"We are destroying some of the old-boy network that held opportunities away from minorities in the past . . . There is one obvious and glaring position that needs to be improved other than the manager position and that's that the progress has been a little bit unfairly balanced toward blacks and not enough to Hispanics. So we're going to continue the efforts on the side of blacks for the entire year and for Hispanics as well."
Ueberroth also complimented the game's record attendance of 52 million and praised the work of teams at improving the family atmosphere at parks. He chose the St. Louis Cardinals for praise -- "They do it right," he said -- and the two New York teams for criticism.