Twins, baseball leagues seek Supreme Court hearing by Dec. 7

Wednesday, November 21st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ Minnesota's highest court is being asked to remove a potential obstacle to baseball's plan to abolish two teams by next spring _ and do it soon.

Lawyers for major league baseball and the Minnesota Twins moved Tuesday to put on the fast track their appeal of a judge's order that forces the team to play in 2002. They hope to skip over the Court of Appeals and take their case directly to the state Supreme Court.

The appeal claims the injunction keeps owners ``from controlling the destiny of the sport.''

``It is true, of course, that many Minnesotans do not want to lose the Minnesota Twins,'' the papers said. ``They do not want the Twin Cities to become `a cold Omaha.' But this is not a legally sufficient reason to force a private business to stay in business.''

The appeal was filed just hours after ex-Twins Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Harmon Killebrew and Bert Blyleven pleaded with an 18-member government task force to do all it can to keep the Twins in the state.

``I can't imagine what I would do if the Twins weren't here,'' said Puckett, who became Minnesota's executive vice president of baseball after glaucoma forced his retirement in 1996. ``Baseball touches all of our lives. It brings us together. It always has. It always will.''

Baseball owners voted Nov. 6 to fold two teams next season, and commissioner Bud Selig called another owners meeting for Tuesday in Chicago.

Although the teams weren't identified, the Twins and Montreal Expos are the believe to be the prime candidate. Twins owner Carl Pohlad, claiming years of financial losses, is willing to give up his team.

The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which runs the Metrodome, filed suit, claiming the team must fulfill its lease to play in the ballpark next season, and District Judge Harry Seymour Crump issued a temporary injunction last Friday.

``This is a national decision that can be made only by major league baseball, and the Hennepin County District Court, with all due respect, is not empowered to second-guess this decision,'' the Twins and baseball said in their appeal.

Roger Magnuson, the lawyer for the team and Selig, asked the Supreme Court to schedule oral arguments by Dec. 7, noting that it is a deadline for free agents. Just in case, he requested the same timeline with the Court of Appeals.

Andy Shea, a lawyer for the MSFC, said the timing of the case is critical. If the request for a quick appeal is denied, baseball won't have enough time to eliminate the Twins by the start of spring training in mid-February.

``That by itself could convince major league baseball that let's not fool around with Minnesota any more this year,'' he said before the papers were filed.

Crump ruled Friday that the Twins are a vital public interest, and the damages caused by them not playing would go beyond money.

The Twins have complained for years that the Metrodome doesn't provide enough revenue to compete financially with baseball's larger markets. A new stadium, they argued, would produce revenue from suites, concessions, parking, naming rights and signage.

The team was 25th among the 30 major league clubs in attendance.

``I know it's a tough situation,'' Puckett said, ``I know I'm a little biased, but this is all I know. This is all I'll ever know. Baseball is special.

``I'm 41 years old. The Twins have been here for 40 years. All of a sudden you're just going to let that go? Well, you might as well get rid of me as well.'