Gould sees progress in baseball negotiations Players, owners may be on path to deal

April 02, 1996|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,SUN STAFF

The man who gets credit for bringing baseball back to life last year after a disastrous eight-month work stoppage says he's increasingly hopeful that players and owners will forge a new collective bargaining agreement.

There are "signs of movement" between players and owners, said William B. Gould IV, chairman of the National Labor Relations Board, and the person who nudged the two sides to end their dispute last March.

"I'm not involved directly in the negotiations and can't be because of my [NLRB] position," said Mr. Gould, who was in Baltimore yesterday to speak to baseball fans at the University of Maryland School of Law.

"But the general sense I get is one of progress. There are indications they are in the same ballpark, so to speak. They're talking about the same framework."

Mr. Gould's comments come amid indications that owners and players may be slowly moving toward a labor deal. The two sides have been operating under terms of an expired agreement.

Last month, owners submitted a new proposal that was met with cautious optimism by players' union officials.

The plan eliminated several points that had been opposed by the players, including an adjustable tax system that would have tied payroll levels to a percentage of baseball revenue.

Mr. Gould said he believes the two sides realize they cannot afford to hold onto their old positions if it means risking a work stoppage like the one that canceled the 1994 World Series.

"I think there is a recognition on both sides that they really shot themselves in the foot," said Mr. Gould, a Stanford University law professor. "They succeeded in making the country very angry with them. Even attendance at spring training games has suffered. A few years ago, you couldn't buy a ticket. I was down there last month, and there was no problem getting seats."

Mr. Gould's visit, which was supposed to be a prelude to yesterday's Orioles' opening day, marked Maryland Law's inaugural Hughie Jennings Memorial Lecture. The event is named for the 19th-century Baltimore Orioles manager and Hall of Famer who was a graduate of the law school.

For the occasion, Mr. Gould wore a Boston Red Sox necktie and told stories about his old baseball heroes, from Ted Williams to Rip Sewell. He recalled how he used to ask his law students at Stanford to accompany him to the baseball fields on campus so they could pitch batting practice to him. And Mr. Gould said he zTC occasionally serves as a radio broadcaster for Stanford University baseball games.

Mr. Gould's popularity suffered among many baseball owners last year when he cast the deciding vote to ask a federal judge for an injunction against the owners. That forced the owners to permit players to return to work under old, more liberal rules.

But he remained close to Baltimore Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos. On one of his last visits to Baltimore, in June, Mr. Gould was picked by Mr. Angelos to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before a game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Mr. Gould is still smiling about that one.

"I loved it," he said. "The day before, I had the driver of our NLRB car warm me up in the parking lot."

Pub Date: 4/02/96

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