CLEVELAND, JUNE 14 -- National League President Bill White today announced Major League Baseball's first two expansion franchises since 1977 will be awarded by "late summer" 1991 and begin playing in April 1993.

Speaking at the close of baseball's two-day quarterly ownership meeting, White also unveiled the timetable for expansion -- in which a "short list" of finalists will be announced by Dec. 31 -- and the general criteria on which the decision will be based. The entry fee was not disclosed.

The application process will begin immediately, with prospective ownership groups being required to make a written request for a questionnaire that will distributed in July. The questionnaire, which will reveal the entry fee (as much as $100 million, sources said), will have to be returned within 30 days of receipt.

Representatives from the two groups seeking a franchise for the Washington area met here for two hours today, but it appears they will request separate questionnaires. The D.C. Baseball Commission, chaired by Councilman Frank Smith (D-Ward 1), is seeking a team that would play at RFK Stadium. The D.C. group, sources said, would include developer John Akridge and Robert Pincus, president of Sovran Bank/D.C. National.

Capital Region Baseball Inc., a group of area businessmen led by Class A Prince William Cannons co-owner Mark Tracz, is seeking a team that Tracz hopes would begin playing at RFK Stadium, then move to a new facility in Northern Virginia.

However, with Tracz and two of his partners standing beside him, Smith said, "I expect there will be a single entity that will submit an application.

"They have a minor league team, we have a stadium and {thousands of} people who have" placed $567 each in escrow accounts at Washington area banks to pay for season tickets, Smith said. "We'll both be looking for money" from prospective investors.

Akridge said from Washington he "might be interested in being part of an ownership group."

Pincus, who has been active for years in the baseball commission, said he and Akridge have "met with members of the expansion committee and other owners and we are confident no decision has been made regarding the selection of the two teams."

Pincus said he and Akridge are looking for additional investors.

The NL's four-person expansion committee will hear presentations from prospective ownership groups by Sept. 30, and will entertain presentations by groups from the same area. It will make initial findings by Nov. 30 and reveal the short list of "three, four or five" cities by Dec. 31, committee chairman Douglas Danforth of the Pittsburgh Pirates said.

The committee, which also includes White, John McMullen of the Houston Astros and Fred Wilpon of the New York Mets, will visit the finalist cities during the first quarter of 1991 and request additional information from the prospective ownership groups.

It will make preliminary recommendations to the Major League Executive Council, NL owners and the Major League Ownership Committee at the June 1991 ownership meetings. Final recommendations for approval of both leagues' owners will be made by Sept. 30, 1991.

The new teams will be allowed to field minor league teams in 1992 and participate in the amateur free agent draft in June 1992. An expansion draft will take place in November 1992, with each of the new teams selecting 36 players from the 12 NL clubs.

"We have no intention of dragging our feet," Danforth said. "If we can move along faster, we will do so."

Danforth reiterated baseball's long-espoused position that no city or group will begin the process with an advantage, but said there is no perfect method of evaluation.

Among the leading contenders for an expansion team are Washington; Buffalo, N.Y.; Miami; Orlando, Fla.; Tampa-St. Petersburg; Phoenix; and Denver. Several other cities are said to be interested in getting a team.

Although Baltimore Orioles owner Eli Jacobs has said his club will not block expansion to Washington, the area may have trouble overcoming its proximity to Baltimore. The Orioles' new stadium in Camden Yards, scheduled to be completed for opening day 1992, will be about 15 minutes closer to Washington than Memorial Stadium is. In addition commuter train service will be available between Union Station and Camden Station, within walking distance of the ball park.

Washington has been without a major league team since after the 1971 season, when the Senators moved to Arlington, Tex.

Open-air, baseball-only stadiums with natural grass are preferred, but not necessary. However, when multi-use stadiums are involved, baseball must be given priority over any other event. Danforth also said areas without stadiums could be awarded teams that would be permitted to begin playing in one facility and then move to another.

Danforth said expansion teams probably will not receive national television rights money until after the current contracts expire after the 1993 season.

"Talk is cheap," Smith said. "When the time comes to put the money on the table, we'll see who shows up."