Baseball no-hopers take to field of dreams

It's that time of year again - when young men dream of spring, old men dream of being young again, and practitioners of major league baseball (a sport once widely played in the United States) make their way to the sunny fields of Florida and Arizona for that great annual rite known as spring training.

And so they will again this year, though no one has the faintest idea of quite who will be turning up. Welcome to the strange new sport of ``replacement baseball'', brought about because the owners and players of the real thing are locked in the longest, most bitter dispute in the history of American professional sport, probably indeed in the history of pro-sport anywhere.

Today the first of 28 major league club training camps will open for pitchers and catchers, warming up for the month-long season of exhibition games which begins on 1 March. Then they head back north for the opening day of the regular season in early April. The spring training which matters this year, however, will take place not on green diamonds in the likes of Tampa Bay, Fort Lauderdale and Tucson, but in courts of law and on Capitol Hill.

Keep Congress out of the baseball strike, say Republicans and Democrats alike, mindful that this is one field where everyone so far has been a loser.

"Just a few hundred folks trying to work out how to divvy up a couple of billion dollars," said President Clinton the other day, as he brought the moral authority of the most powerful elected office on earth to rescue the national pastime. Would that it were so simple. If Mr Clinton thought he had a surefire way of winning back the angry white male vote which deserted him in November - no way.

And earlier Bill Usery, the former Labor Secretary who is considered the most skilful mediator in the country, struck out too.

"The most bitter dispute I have ever seen," the 71-year-old Mr Usery declared after four wasted months trying to broker an end to the conflict which brought the players out on strike last 12 August and caused the first cancellation of the World Series in 90 years. Today on the central issue of a salary cap, the two sides are as far apart as on Day One.

And so, like it or not, Congress is biting the bullet. A small bipartisan group of Senators this week introduced a bill that would partly strip professional baseball of the exemption it enjoys, alone of the major sports, from the US anti-trust laws. If they gain the right to bring an unfair labour practice suit in the courts, say the players, they will end the strike. Oh yes, the owners respond - "do that and we'll lock you out anyway".

And so 1995's vile-tempered rite of spring gets under way. The owners have not yet named the unknowns, no-hopers and never-wozzers they have recruited to fill the places of the strikers.

Will these millionaire players form picket lines outside the training camps? Will there be an Opening Day at all?

And most important of all, given the dwindling number of Americans who aren't by now disgusted with the whole squalid affair, who cares?

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?