Next pitch likely to be on Friday

Baseball postpones 30 more

extension of season possible

Ripken could go out at home

Pennant races, Bonds' homer chase make fewer games unlikely

Baseball

September 13, 2001|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

Major-league ballparks will remain closed at least through today as baseball officials ponder the complex humanitarian and logistical issues surrounding the resumption of the regular season in the wake of Tuesday's horrific terrorist attacks.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig yesterday announced the postponement of 30 more games - marking the first time since World War I that the baseball season has been suspended for more than one day for reasons other than labor unrest.

"Major League Baseball remains very sensitive to the aftereffects of the terrible tragedy that has struck our nation," Selig said.

The season likely will resume tomorrow, pending an announcement by Selig early today. He also is expected to announce what baseball plans to do about the games that have been postponed.

Those games either must be canceled - shortening the season from 162 to 159 games - or made up after the scheduled end of regular-season play, which could push back the start of the playoffs for up to a week.

Baseball owners appear to be leaning toward extending the regular season.

The Orioles would have a large stake in the decision. Retiring star Cal Ripken is scheduled to play his final game at Camden Yards on Sept. 23 and end his playing career on Sept. 30 at Yankee Stadium. If Major League Baseball orders the Orioles to make up the three games lost this week against the Toronto Blue Jays, Ripken would make his final appearance at home - probably on Oct. 3 or 4, depending on when Selig orders play to resume.

Selig and high-ranking officials in other sports must tread carefully in their attempt to return to normal operations, because of the terrible human toll from Tuesday's tragedy. There also are security concerns inherent in luring thousands of fans back to America's stadiums and arenas with so many questions about the terrorist attack still unanswered.

Major League Baseball is in the midst of an exciting and entertaining season. The National League West Division race is heading to the wire with three teams still in close contention. The other two NL races also are far from decided and the National League wild-card race is one of the most exciting ever.

In addition, baseball fans again have been enthralled by the major-league home run derby. San Francisco Giants superstar Barry Bonds needs just eight home runs to break Mark McGwire's record of 70 in a season, making the rescheduling of the three Giants games lost this week potentially pivotal.

"There are so few games and pennant races are still very, very tight," Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane told the Associated Press yesterday. "Just one or two games could alter who ultimately wins the pennant."

Orioles vice chairman Joe Foss met with department heads yesterday afternoon to discuss several contingencies, including the possibility of Selig announcing today that this week's postponed series will be rescheduled for the first week in October. Such a scenario could leave fans who scrambled for tickets to the Sept. 21-23 home series against the New York Yankees with entrM-ie to Ripken's penultimate series at Camden Yards.

Though the Orioles haven't announced a redemption policy for this week's series against the Blue Jays, they have previously honored tickets to postponed games on specified make-up dates.

"We've discussed if this season slides two or three more games in October, allowing us to play our final game in Baltimore and what that does to our games for the 21st, 22nd and 23rd," Foss said. "But to get into that suggests a decision has been made and that we're not telling people, and that's not the case."

The Blue Jays, meanwhile, checked out of the Marriott Inner Harbor hotel yesterday evening and -because of the nationwide ban on air travel - boarded chartered buses for a drive of at least 11 hours back to Toronto.

The Yankees also have planned an elaborate ceremony for Sept. 30. Tickets for Ripken's final game at Yankee Stadium have sold for more than $1,000.

The Orioles unsuccessfully petitioned to reschedule a May 26 rainout against the Texas Rangers for Oct. 1. Citing a longstanding policy that reserves the Monday following the regular-season schedule for breaking ties and playing postponed games with bearing on postseason berths, the commissioner's office rejected the warehouse proposal.

"Locally, we'd of course like to see Cal finish his career here," Foss said. "You've also got the National League and Barry Bonds. I think there's a desire to be fair with everybody. The Orioles aren't going to play 162 games while Kansas City gets to play 159."

A news conference and on-field ceremony to announce Ripken's involvement in NASCAR's Aug. 23 MBNA-Cal Ripken 400 at Dover Downs International Speedway has been canceled, though Ripken still intends to serve as honorary starter for the race, according to Ripken spokesman John Maroon.

Maroon said he had no knowledge of the regular season's being extended.

"At this point, we're waiting like everybody else," he said.

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