Georgia lawmakers propose mediation in baseball talks

Wednesday, July 17th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Two avid baseball fans, Sen. Zell Miller and Rep. Johnny Isakson, are trying to pressure negotiators in an effort to avert the sport's ninth work stoppage since 1972.

The Georgia lawmakers admit desperation was a motivating factor behind their resolution, introduced Wednesday in both houses. It calls for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to get involved in the sport's labor talks.

But even if Congress approves it and President Bush _ the former Texas Rangers owner _ signs it into law, the resolution is nonbinding.

``I want to save this game for those who love it as I do and for those who will come after us,'' said Miller, a Democrat. ``I do not want to see our national pastime become our national once-upon-a-time.''

Players haven't set a strike date, but are likely to set one for August or September if there is little progress in talks for a new labor contract. Players believe that without a deal, owners will change work rules later this year.

A similar fear led to the 1994-95 strike, which wiped out the World Series for the first time in 90 years.

The Miller-Isakson proposal calls on the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to help the two sides work out an agreement. However, the lawmakers admit nothing is stopping baseball officials from seeking the board's help now _ and nothing would require them to accept it, even if the resolution is adopted.

``It's a national institution,'' Isakson said. ``It's our national pastime. If you look back to Sept. 11, baseball _ more than any other institution _ helped bring us out of the darkness.''

Union head Donald Fehr was unaware of the resolution, but noted that the sides had used the FMCS in the past. It hasn't come up in this round of talks to replace the agreement that expired Nov. 7.

``We haven't talked to the clubs about it,'' he said.

Rob Manfred, management's top labor lawyer, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.