Clancy says use of replacements would be 'lying'

January 17, 1995|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Sun Staff Writer

Orioles owner Peter Angelos might be irking the baseball establishment by refusing to go along with an owners plan to field replacement teams if striking major-league players aren't back on the job when spring training camps open.

But that stand is endearing Angelos to at least some of his fellow investors in the Orioles.

Yesterday, two said they support his stance of saying no to replacement ball.

"This is something Peter and I have talked about repeatedly. We're in total agreement," said novelist and Orioles investor Tom Clancy.

"If there is another position that is ethically defensible, I don't know what it is. We are in business to entertain fans. We don't have a moral right to lie to fans. When you put a substitute team out there, you're lying."

Another team investor, David H. Bernstein, said replacement games aren't "what the public goes into a major-league ballpark to see."

"Hockey has cleaned up its act. It's time baseball did the same," said Bernstein, chairman of Maryland-based Duty Free International.

Angelos has been a vocal critic of replacement players, and has taken his case to the other 27 baseball team owners.

At an owners meeting in Chicago last December, he spoke out against the plan, saying he refused to be a part of a scheme that would end the consecutive-game streak of Cal Ripken. Ripken is 121 games short of New York Yankees great Lou Gehrig's streak of 2,130 games.

Privately, a few other teams have joined Angelos in questioning the owners' plan to use replacement players. But mostly Angelos has been alone to object.

Angelos heads about 20 investors who bought the Orioles in August 1993 for $173 million, then a record for a pro sports franchise. The group is composed mostly of Maryland residents or those with ties to the state, and includes a tennis pro (Pam Shriver), a sportscaster (Jim McKay) and the world's largest distributor of comic books (Stephen A. Geppi).

Clancy, whose $20 million stake in the Orioles ranks second only to Angelos' roughly $40 million investment, left no doubt where he stands. Yesterday, he criticized the idea of replacement games and said he doesn't understand why owners of other teams support such a plan.

"Maybe we are the only ones with the courage of our convictions," he said. "Maybe we're the only ones saying we are right. I know we are not the only ones who think so."

Clancy was particularly outspoken about Milwaukee Brewers owner Bud Selig, baseball's acting commissioner and a supporter of the replacement plan.

"I've never talked to the man," Clancy said. "I don't understand his point of view. How can you put a Yugo out there and say it's a Cadillac, then make people pay for it like a Cadillac?

"It's a lie; it's dishonest. It shows disrespect for people without whom we cannot function. We have a covenant with fans. We have to respect it. We can't break it. Otherwise, what are you?

"All we have to sell is the idea of baseball. If we besmirch that idea, we have nothing, literally nothing."

Clancy said he admired Ripken for putting his streak in jeopardy for the sake of other striking players.

"I saw him a few weeks ago, and I told him he was doing the only ethical thing, standing by the players, and that I respected him for it," said Clancy. "He'll never catch grief from me for doing it."

Bernstein, the other Orioles investor, also expressed regrets about the effect replacement games might have on Ripken's streak.

"I would be devastated to see him lose that record," he said. "That would be a tragedy for baseball, Baltimore, Cal and everybody."

On the subject of fielding a replacement team, Bernstein said he might be forced to rethink his views if other baseball owners launch a legal battle against the Orioles. Selig and others indirectly have hinted at this possibility in recent weeks.

"If it became a legal thing and the franchise was in jeopardy, I guess we'd have to acquiesce," Bernstein said.

With five weeks before the scheduled opening of spring training camps, owners are moving ahead with plans for replacement games. Last week, baseball's ruling Executive Council approved rules that would govern replacement teams. Among the rules: Most players would receive salaries of $115,000.

A number of clubs are recruiting replacement players. Several have scheduled tryouts, and the Colorado Rockies are asking prospects to call a toll-free telephone number.

Angelos said yesterday that the Orioles won't get involved in efforts like those. "The Orioles are not in the business of recruiting players at tryout camps. We don't consider pickup teams equivalent to major-league baseball," he said.

Angelos said he would meet with his baseball staff in the next few days to discuss how to proceed with the team's plans for spring training.

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