Add the case of the elusive fax to Fay Vincent's portfolio of problems.
A group of owners has been circulating a fax that asks colleagues to sign a letter intended to induce Vincent to resign as baseball commissioner, according to several other owners and Vincent himself.
Some owners said they have heard about the fax; Vincent said he has been told of its existence, in varying forms, by several owners. But no one who was willing to talk about the matter acknowledged having actually seen the fax.
Peter O'Malley of the Los Angeles Dodgers, described by other owners as one of the ringleaders, said "no comment" yesterday to four questions about the matter.
The commissioner said his opponents are wasting their time and energy.
"I told them if they came to me with 25 signatures I wouldn't quit," he said yesterday by telephone from San Diego, where the All-Star Game will be played tomorrow night.
Some time in the last two weeks, one anti-Vincent owner told another owner that the fax had drawn 20 signatures. The next day, another owner said, the same owner told him it had 16 signatures. Yet another owner was responsible for a recent published report that said 22 owners opposed Vincent and wanted him to resign.
But based on conversations with owners the last few days, the number would have to be far less than 22.
The fact that no one has presented the commissioner with a letter, or petition, gives him and his supporters reason to think the other side has not come up with enough signatures to make a strong case for resignation. Under the Major League Agreement, a commissioner cannot be fired during his term. Vincent's term runs until March 31, 1994.
Vincent said he has been told by some owners that different versions of the fax have been circulated among the owners.
"One owner told me it has been watered down," Vincent said. "The first version was very vitriolic. They were saying I was dishonest and deceitful. Then they changed it to try to get more people to sign it. It became 'please resign, we don't have confidence in you.' "
The commissioner has become embattled over a string of decisions he has made, including last week's order to realign the National League, and his refusal to relinquish his authority in labor negotiations.
Jerry Reinsdorf of the Chicago White Sox, Bud Selig of Milwaukee and O'Malley have been Vincent's most noted opponents, and they are joined by Carl Pohlad of Minnesota, Fred Kuhlmann of St. Louis, Jackie Autry of California, Douglas Danforth of Pittsburgh and Stanton Cook of the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs are suing Vincent over his decision to move the club, along with St. Louis, to the National League West next season.
Selig, Pohlad and Kuhlmann joined O'Malley in refusing to comment. The others did not return telephone calls.
Bo Schembechler, president of the Detroit Tigers, said Tom Monaghan, the Tigers owner, was contacted "by one of the owners" in the resignation drive. Schembechler said Monaghan referred the matter to him.
"I told him I didn't think he should be any part of that," Schembechler said. "That was my recommendation. I assume that's what he did. If anything, this is a time that the owners and the commissioner should be pulling together."
Claude Brochu, president and general partner of the Montreal Expos, said he had not seen the fax and did not expect anyone to send it to him.
"I've heard rumors," Brochu said. "I haven't seen it. I won't be a part of that."
Haywood Sullivan of the Boston Red Sox said he has not received the fax. "If they classify me as a supporter," he said, "I couldn't deny it. I'm a supporter of the rules. I support that office."
Bill Giles of the Philadelphia Philies said he hasn't seen the fax tTC either. "I have been told there's some movement to try to get the commissioner to resign, but I haven't been asked to be a part of it," he said.
Would he be part of it? "I'd rather not say," he replied.