Baseball picks Denver, Miami for expansion Approval expected from owners

D.C. comes up short

June 11, 1991|By Mark Hyman

With only routine approvals remaining, the National League has set its expansion lineup, adding Denver and Miami for 1993.

Those cities are the choices of the NL expansion committee, baseball commissioner Fay Vincent announced yesterday, and Mr. Vincent predicted they would be approved by the 26 major-league owners.

The recommendation apparently ends this round of Washington's pursuit of a major-league team to replace the Senators, who left for Arlington, Texas, after the 1971 season.

"They obviously were the two most attractive choices. That speaks for itself," Mr. Vincent, in Santa Monica, Calif., for this week's major-league owners' meeting, told The Associated Press.

"Naturally, I'm sorry there had to be losers, that there still must be areas where there is no major-league baseball," he said. "I feel bad for Washington, but those fans can still go over to Baltimore -- and to a beautiful new park next year."

The recommendation of the NL expansion committee will go to the ownership committee, which will study the financial credentials of proposed investors in the two cities and, if it approves, will pass on their recommendations to the full complement of owners, whose quarterly meeting begins tomorrow in Santa Monica.

To be approved, the expansion cities need the votes of nine of the 12 NL owners and a majority of the 14 American League owners.

Mr. Vincent said the expansion committee's recommendations would be presented to the ownership committee tomorrow and to all owners at league meetings later in the day. He left some doubt whether the owners actually will vote on admitting the NL's 13th and 14th teams this week.

"I think the recommendation will be accepted," Mr. Vincent said. "I believe the ownership committee will vote on it. I still don't know if the leagues will. I suspect not. I don't think the leagues will vote this week."

The franchises cost $95 million each and will be the first new major-league teams since the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays joined the AL in 1977. They will be the first new NL teams since the Montreal Expos and San Diego Padres joined in 1969.

Predictably, the news played well in Miami and Denver.

"We're pleased and excited," said H. Wayne Huizenga, the chairman of Blockbuster Entertainment Corp., who would become owner of Miami's team. "We found out Friday afternoon."

Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez said: "We're obviously rejoicing. It kind of gives a stamp of certification as a major city in the United States."

Colorado Gov. Roy Romer said: "The owners group must ratify it, but the full expectation is that they would ratify this recommendation. My feeling is that it's a very, very good home run for Denver and Colorado."

Other cities hoping for expansion teams are Buffalo, N.Y., Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla., and Orlando, Fla.

Pat Williams, who spearheaded Orlando's bid, said of the recommendations: "It's been rumored for so long, it probably doesn't come as a surprise. We've run a hard race, a good race. We've done everything we could."

Mr. Williams said that until the 26 owners approve the recommendation, he wasn't giving up. "This is just a recommendation," he said. "Let's see how it plays out. I still believe Orlando has the greatest upside. [The recommendation] does not in any way say that this cannot be a great baseball area."

Developer John E. Akridge III, who leads a group of Washington investors, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

For the team's geographical name, the ownership group i choosing from among Miami, Florida and South Florida. It is said to be leaning toward Panthers as a nickname and aqua and orange as its colors. The team would play in Joe Robbie Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins of the National Football League.

Mr. Suarez said he believed Miami's large Latin-American population helped the city with the expansion committee.

Mr. Huizenga owns 50 percent of the stadium, which recently underwent $10 million in improvements to transform it into a multisport facility.

Miami had the simplest ownership structure of the competing cities -- Huizenga will own it all, or virtually all.

Denver's group is more complicated. John A. Antonucci, 37, chief officer of a beverage company, is a managing general partner. So is Michael Monus, 43, founder of a local discount drug chain, and Steven Ehrhart, 44, an attorney and former sports agent. The city's fortunes were flagging, however, until late March, when beer giant Adolph Coors Co. joined the group, pledging a reported $30 million.

Denver, which is said to be leaning toward purple as its primary color and Whitey Herzog as its manager, may officially be called Colorado or Rocky Mountain, with a nickname to be determined.

The teams will get their first players in June 1992.

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