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Baseball Union Wins Ruling on Free Agency

September 21, 1987|United Press International

NEW YORK — An arbitrator ruled today that baseball management conspired to restrict free agency, a landmark decision certain to upset the sport's power structure.

The arbitrator, Thomas Roberts, examined 5,682 pages of transcripts and 288 exhibits before announcing a decision viewed as perhaps the most significant in baseball since free agency began in 1975.

The grievance was filed Feb. 3, 1986, by the Major League Baseball Players Assn., charging owners violated the collective bargaining agreement by working in collusion not to sign free agents.

The league's 26 owners and Commissioner Peter Ueberroth claimed management was practicing "fiscal responsibility."

The grievance was filed on behalf of the 63 players in the 1985-86 class of free agents, including Kirk Gibson, Phil and Joe Niekro, Carlton Fisk, Butch Wynegar and Donnie Moore. A similar grievance on behalf of 1986-87 free agents Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, Jack Morris and Lance Parrish is being heard separately by another arbitrator.

Issues Remaining

The conflicting sides will now have to settle such issues as awarding the players salaries they would have received in an open market, awarding punitive damages and declaring the players free agents.

Donald Fehr, head of the players' union, called the opinion "about as strong as we could have hoped for."

"We will ask the arbitrator in some fashion to determine the nature of the remedy and make sure that it will never happen again," Fehr said.

Fehr also said he will ask that players, "be awarded full and complete damages, whatever they may be."

Roberts also will hear the damage portion of the proceeding.

Roberts did not offer any suggestions with his ruling, but Fehr said he expects to meet with Roberts to work out some remedies by the end of the week.

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