O's players give union approval to set strike date


The Orioles voted unanimously yesterday to give the executive committee of the Major League Players Association authorization to set a strike date and -- if necessary -- to call for a work stoppage later this season.

Player representative Mike Mussina conducted the meeting before last night's game against the Oakland Athletics. Presumably, the other 27 major-league clubs have taken similar votes or will do so before the executive committee meets Monday in Pittsburgh.

There had been speculation that Monday's meeting would produce a strike deadline, but union director Donald Fehr may ask the committee to leave that option open for the time being, since the negotiations on a new labor agreement still are in the preliminary stages.

"The players authorized myself or [Jim] Poole and the rest of the executive committee at whatever meeting to decide to set a date," Mussina said.

Mussina said that he didn't believe that a specific strike date would be set Monday, but still thinks there will be a work stoppage.

"I thought three weeks ago that we would eventually go on strike and I still think we are going to strike," he said. "The only thing that would prove otherwise -- in my mind -- was if the owners' initial proposal had shown that we had gotten a few points across to them over the past 18 months."

Negotiations remain in progress. Union and management officials met this week and are scheduled to meet again in New York next Thursday.

The major obstacle to a settlement has not changed. The owners want a revenue-based salary cap and the players want to explore alternatives. If history is any gauge, there will be no significant movement until someone forces the issue.

Hammonds back in lineup

Outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds returned to the lineup after a couple days off and shed the knee brace he has been wearing the past three weeks, but manager Johnny Oates concedes he still is not 100 percent.

guessing that he's about 80 percent," Oates said, "but I'll take Jeffrey at 80 percent."

Hammonds had been playing in a brace since he strained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee. He has been effective, but asked for a break after appearing in 17 consecutive games following his return from the disabled list.

Oates applauded Hammonds for being sensible enough to ask for some time off. It might seem unusual for a rookie to ask out of the lineup, but the Orioles value him so highly that they do not want to do anything that might put him at unnecessary risk.

He knows that Hammonds is not lacking in desire. "If anything, on this team, you've got to slow guys down," Oates said, "because [Cal Ripken] Junior sets such a standard. Everybody's out here at three o'clock."

Orioles unveil anniversary video

The Orioles held a news luncheon yesterday to introduce their 40th anniversary video, which will be sold at Crown Central Petroleum stations for $7.95.

The 55-minute video is narrated by broadcaster and Orioles minority owner Jim McKay, and includes highlights and interviews with the major players in Orioles history.

Escalator update

The Orioles have put the left-field escalators back into use, but the right-field escalator that malfunctioned and injured dozens of fans June 18 will not return to service during the current homestand. It may be cleared to begin operating by the time the Orioles return from their West Coast trip after the All-Star break.

Pre-game ceremonies

Former Olympic star Florence Griffith Joyner threw out the ceremonial first pitch. She was at Camden Yards promoting "Strike out Stroke Night." After the first-pitch ceremony, she signed autographs at the Orioles' Community Booth, where fans could have their blood pressure taken.

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