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America Copes without Baseball

August 7, 1985

Undated (AP) _ No beer was sold at Comiskey Park, no one gobbled peanuts or Cracker Jack at Riverfront Stadium, no cars were parked at the Astrodome, no one needed a program at Yankee Stadium.

Major league baseball was on strike.

The owners and players talked hopefully Tuesday of a quick settlement - a hope shared by cities that stand to lose millions of dollars in business if the season ends in August.

Union chief Don Fehr and management negotiator Lee MacPhail reportedly made dramatic strides toward a settlement earlier in the day. The stumbling block, they said, was salary arbitration, with the union defending a system the owners blame for raising salaries so high that several teams faced insolvency.

While owners and players reached no agreement on slicing the sport’s rich pie of ticket receipts and TV revenues, peanut and soft-drink vendors were thrown out of work and TV stations filled the empty hours with minor league baseball or movies aimed at the macho market.

At Sportsland USA near Tigers Stadium in Detroit, baseball merchandise was marked down as much as 30 percent and shelves were being restocked with football souvenirs.

″The players and owners are not realizing that there are people who work at the stadium who are going to be hurt,″ said Janice Grates, an employee at Sportsland.

″We’ve laid off 795 employees,″ said John Doncrank, general manager of Szabo Concessions, which handles all food and souvenir stands at Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs.

″What we earn at the Kingdome is what pays for our utilities and food,″ said Macel Medina, who works in concessions while her husband does maintenance work during events at Seattle’s domed stadium. ″It’s time those overpaid baseball players took a cut like everybody else.″

Frank Costello, spokesman for Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn, said a long shutdown of Fenway Park would cost city businesses millions of dollars.

″We know for a fact many visitors schedule their trips to Boston around the major league schedule so they can catch a game or two while they are here, to look at their team playing the Red Sox,″ Costello said. ″You add up the vending people, the hotel people, taxis, restaurants, the spinoff benefits from major league baseball, the impact is not good. You’d be talking millions.″

At Arthur Bryant’s barbecue restaurant - a Kansas City institution - general manager Eddie Echols said about 200 to 300 fans stop to buy sandwiches and ribs to take to the stadium on any baseball night. He said that’s about 40 percent of his business.

The cities also will feel the pinch via lost tax revenue. Joel Ralph, manager of Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, said the Phillies generate between $7 million and $8 million a year for the city, averaging between $70,000 and $100,000 per game.

Even in Cleveland, where the average attendance of 9,000 a game is the worst in baseball, the loss of the 26 remaining home games would cost the city between $6 million and $10 million, said Cheryl Bolas, director of research for the Greater Cleveland Growth Association.

San Diego Padres fans had to go without hearing Jerry Coleman scream ″You can hang a star on that baby 3/8″ on KFMB radio, but the station filled the time with a fantasy baseball game. The Padres won.

WGN, which broadcasts 150 Chicago Cubs games throughout the United States every year, plans to fill the time with minor league games from the Class AAA Des Moines, Iowa, Cubs, along with boxing and tennis, and with macho movies that have male appeal. For Wednesday, WGN planned to pinch-hit with Charles Bronson.

Business was down in bars also.

″This is a sports bar. There are three television sets in here. Now we don’t have anything to do until the football season,″ said Terry, a regular at New York’s McCaffrey & Burke Bar and Grill. ″We might as well spend more time with our girl friends.″

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