Baseball: Players fix start date for strike

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The Independent Online
AMERICA'S Major League players will start their long- feared strike on 12 August - a decision which, barring a miraculous and speedy meeting of minds, threatens to knock out the rest of the 1994 season including the World Series and, some pessimists fear, much of 1995 as well, writes Rupert Cornwell from Washington.

Making the announcement in New York yesterday, Don Nehr, the players' association spokesman, held out little hope of a compromise on the central dispute between the players and the owners, over the latter's insistence on a salary cap that would hit hard the earnings of the game's highest-earning performers.

The dispute would be the eighth baseball strike in 22 years. The players have won all the previous seven, but this time the clubs have taken steps to prevent any early cave-in. Under amended rules, a three-quarters majority of major league franchises must agree to any deal with the players. This means just eight clubs hold an effective veto.

The owners claim that despite the surge in baseball's popularity, 19 of the 28 clubs are losing money. Without a salary cap placing a ceiling on total payrolls, they argue, the rich clubs will drive smaller and poorer ones out of business. The players, whose average 1994 salary is dollars 1.2m ( pounds 805,000), insist any cap is an infringement of the free market.

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