Jackson's hug sends mixed Schott message

January 14, 1993|By Jerome Holtzman | Jerome Holtzman,Chicago Tribune

GRAPEVINE, Texas -- The winter baseball news continued apace yesterday with the surprise resignation of deputy commissioner Steve Greenberg and the opening of the management-labor bargaining process.

But first, a previously unreported holdover occurrence from the owners' daylong meeting Tuesday in Dallas:

During a 10-minute break, after Jesse Jackson had concluded his oration on the necessity of increasing minority hirings, he went over to Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott and gave her a hug.

Schott, in accepting the embrace, said, "How are you, honey?"

This scenario was confirmed by three owners, two of whom were close enough to hear Schott's response.

Soon thereafter, during a crowded news conference, Jackson reiterated his conviction that Schott should be fined and suspended for her alleged racial and ethnic slurs.

On to the happenings of the day:

Greenberg, a fixture in the commissioner's office for the last three years, resigned primarily because he had been reduced to the status of a spectator since the Sept. 7 departure of Fay Vincent, baseball's eighth czar, who resigned under pressure.

Said Greenberg in his letter of resignation to Bud Selig, the commissioner pro-tem:

"Major-league baseball faces the prospect of negotiating a new labor agreement and new national broadcasting arrangements in "I have spent considerable time developing ideas and forming relationships that I had hoped would be helpful during these contract talks. Yet since September, I have not been asked to participate in any of the numerous player-relation and television-committee meetings during which negotiating objectives and tactics have been discussed.

"One owner suggested to me on several occasions last summer that I was 'too loyal' to Fay Vincent. That struck me as a peculiar charge because I was brought up to believe one can never be 'too loyal' to one's family, friends or teammates.

"But if excessive loyalty is, in fact, one of my 'faults,' then baseball owners should consider themselves fortunate because they have been beneficiaries of that loyalty."

Greenberg, the younger of two sons of Hall of Fame slugger Hank Greenberg, captained the 1970 Yale baseball team and played five years of professional baseball, all in the minors. Later, he practiced law in Los Angeles and, at one time, represented as many as 50 players in their salary negotiations.

As for the labor talks, Richard Ravitch, representing the owners for the first time, came out swinging. This is unusual. Usually, negotiators for both sides spend the first three or four months dancing around the maypole.

Ravitch told Don Fehr, executive director of the players association, the following:

* He is going to recommend to the owners that they should not call for a lockout before or during the season ahead.

* He suggested that the expiration date of the current Basic Agreement be moved up two months, from Dec. 31 to Nov. 1.

* He said that the owners' only objective is to know their costs going into the 1994 season, and that they expect the players' union to approach their salary and ancillary requests in relation to a percentage of the industry's gross income.

In other words, the owners want the players to agree to revenue-sharing, with the players settling for a fixed percentage of their compensation.

So far as the owners are concerned, revenue participation and/or sharing is the crucial component of the next Basic Agreement.

For example, during Tuesday's owners meeting in Dallas, Stan Kasten, president of the Atlanta Braves, said to his fellow moguls:

L "We should have buttons made up saying, 'What's the Cost?' "

Asked if he was pleased with the bargaining session, Ravitch said, "Yes, I am very pleased. We got off on the right foot."

Fehr characterized the session as "predictable."

Said Fehr: "Mr. Ravitch previously had indicated the importance of revenue participation so this did not come as a surprise. We expected this approach.

"His statement that there would not be a lockout, that's certainly constructive."

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