Baseball: Owners pull plug on World Series

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THE World Series, the American institution that survived two world wars, the Great Depression and a Canadian winner, succumbed to union action yesterday when the moribund 1994 season was officially declared dead.

With the players' strike in its 34th day, the acting baseball commissioner, Bud Selig, called off the remainder of the season following the loss of 433 games and almost dollars 300m (pounds 196m) in revenue. The national pastime, played more than a century ago by the troops of Robert E Lee and Ulysses S Grant, was halted in modern fashion - by fax.

'This is a sad day,' Selig said in his statement. 'Nobody wanted this to happen, but we have reached the point where it is no longer practical to complete the remainder of the season or to preserve the integrity of post-season play.' Dismay was widespread. 'This is a sad day, a disappointing day, and a terrible day,' the Los Angeles Dodgers manager, Tommy Lasorda said. 'Who would have ever thought it would come to this?'

Since its inception in 1903, the World Series has only previously been cancelled once, in 1904, when the New York Giants deemed the Boston Pilgrims unworthy opponents. Such sentiments appear mutual in this case.

The owners had failed signally to reach an agreement with the players, who downed tools on 12 August over a proposal to impose a salary cap. Twenty-six of the 28 club owners signed the resolution calling for cancellation, believing that a ceiling on wages is imperative in order to keep all the franchises economically viable. While average salaries of dollars 1.2m (pounds 769,000) have certainly added grist to their mill, the public view greed as a common factor.

Don Fehr, the head of the players' union, said the strike might have ended had Congress not rejected a bill to outlaw the salary cap. Instead, he now foresees a protracted legal fight should owners declare an impasse and impose salary limits in November.

'This was a pre-determined result,' Fehr charged, effectively accusing the owners of wanting to end the season. 'You don't see any concern, any upset, any gut-wrenching. You see a calm acceptance, indicating to me this is the result they expected for some time.'

Rapprochement is far from close. While the owners have been threatening to draft in minor-league players as replacements to ensure next season starts on schedule, the players have been making noises about a breakaway league.