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Baseball Strike Averted

Aired August 30, 2002 - 13:49   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. We really can take you out to the ballgame now. You are looking at live pictures. Maybe we can bring them up again as players are getting ready to take on -- the St. Louis Cardinals, the Chicago Cubs there at Wrigley Field. The game is going to be played as is every other game that is scheduled for today because a deal has been reached between players and owners. Baseball strike will not take place. Great news.

Our Larry Smith here continuing to follow everything, with this breaking news coverage that we have had in the past, what, about 30 minutes ago, would you say, they finally reached a deal after how many hours of talks?

LARRY SMITH, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: About an hour and a half ago, they finally came together, but they just now talked about 40 minutes ago, yeah, finally.

PHILLIPS: OK, the fans -- a very important part. Bud Selig talked about the fans. That was the first question from reporters, what about the fans. A lot to be done here with regard to building that image again and getting fans happy, I guess you could say, with the owners and the players.

SMITH: Content to come out and embrace the game, as they have in the past, in larger numbers. And to, yeah, to be happy about it. There is no question.

One thing that I was disappointed that Commissioner Bud Selig did not do is address that. When he was asked that several times, he kept saying we want to return the focus to the field, and obviously that is the first step in this process, but I think obviously the fans are huge. Because of the fans remain turned off the way that they have turned off the game, then baseball has an even bigger problem. If no one is in the stands to watch and no one is watching TV, to find out, you know, World Series games or who is going to win this game or that game, or whatever, watch the incredible heroics that these players put on.

Donald Fehr, the union chief this afternoon in a news conference did say that the fact of this settlement ought to repair and restore the game. And it is true, it does prevent further erosion of the fan base, at least at this moment, compared to what we would have had if we had had a work stoppage. But the way that it is, you know, they still have problems. They have not recovered, as we talked earlier. They haven't recovered from the attendance problems that they had after the 1994 strike, and so the question is now, can they restore those numbers.

PHILLIPS: All right. And can they restore confidence within the fans. You know, you and I were talking about these two Web sites that we discovered, Heather Holdridge is the creator of that Web site. And also, We've got Don Wadewitz. They both join us now, I guess, to get both perspectives, fan perspectives, shall we say, about what has happened today.

First of all, why don't we get your overall reaction about the deal finally being reached. Don, why don't we start with you.

DON WADEWITZ, MLBFANSTRIKE.COM: Well, you know, it's great that they finally came to an agreement, that they sat down, they compromised on the issues, and that we're going to have baseball. Obviously, we are going to want to see what these deals have to offer and do they really help address the problems that baseball has been facing.

PHILLIPS: Heather, what do you think?

HEATHER HOLDRIDGE, TAKEBACKBASEBALL.COM: Well, I feel like the owners and the players pulled off a suicide squeeze bunt in the bottom of the ninth inning. Very happy that we have got a deal and there will be baseball today, but at the same time, I think there are still some long-term issues that I would be very surprised if this agreement does address them.

PHILLIPS: Well, I have looked at both of your Web sites. Heather, I am looking at your Web site right now. You are pretty anti-Bud Selig, aren't you?

HOLDRIDGE: Well, we are no fan of the commissioner. I think that's fair to say. We feel like he has not been a particularly effective voice as an independent arbiter overseeing the integrity of the game.

PHILLIPS: But Don, I have checked out your Web site, you are a big fan of Bud. How come?

WADEWITZ: Well, it's not necessarily that we're a big fan of Bud. I mean, being from Milwaukee, we love Bud for bringing baseball back to Milwaukee. And he has done a great job, it looks like, in getting this agreement hammered out. And like I said, we'll need to see what the meat and potatoes are of this deal.

PHILLIPS: So, I'm curious, Heather, you have been soliciting e- mails, you have got a lot of people writing in saying, let's get rid of Bud, let's bring in -- I was seeing Ozzy Osbourne and Oprah as the baseball commissioner?

HOLDRIDGE: Well, they were actually -- yes, they did receive votes. But they were on the low end of the vote totals. We ran a poll for about three, four weeks, and Cal Ripken Jr. actually won our poll. He just barely edged out Rudy Giuliani.

PHILLIPS: Don, what do you think about those? Are those the two possible future commissioners?

WADEWITZ: I don't know if they are possible future commissioners, but you know, I think a lot of people feel that what Giuliani did in New York after the disasters of last year, that he brought a bunch of people together, brought the American people together.

SMITH: Hey, Don, this is Larry Smith now. One question, too, in watching the news conference, I don't know if you saw it today here on CNN, but both Donald Fehr and Bud Selig really did a wonderful Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers as they kind of danced around the real issues of this, and seemed like suites and not real people. Is part of the game not only bringing the players closer to the fans and kind of reinventing that, but also maybe making the owners and the people who make the decisions kind of more real people as well?

WADEWITZ: Sure, you know, and somebody was saying that it sounds like a bunch of lawyers talking as they were making that announcement. And it really does. And Bud just kind of has a little bit of a stiff look to him in a normal way, so he gets a bad wrap a little bit, I think, because he doesn't come across well and he hasn't been kind of the independent arbiter of everything, like Heather said. So they need to, I think, loosen up a little bit and get the owners in touch with the fans as well.

SMITH: Well, I'll tell you what, they're watching, maybe they will go get a mock collar, like I've got, and then they can kind of, you know, get with it, what do you think?

WADEWITZ: See him out there in a ripped T-shirt and some blue jeans out on occasion.

SMITH: There you go. Yeah, exactly. Maybe a tattoo, who knows. Earring, I don't know.

Hey, Don, Heather, thanks so much. We have to run, but thanks again for your thoughts today.

WADEWITZ: Thank you.

HOLDRIDGE: Thank you.

SMITH: Let's really quickly back out to Wrigley Field. Jeff Flock is having more fun than should be humanly allowed.

PHILLIPS: He is on the field.

SMITH: Yeah, we're glad that he's out there. This is cool.

PHILLIPS: Lucky dog.

(CROSSTALK) JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I was just watching Bill sign balls for these guys. You just got an autograph from Bill Mueller, didn't you?


FLOCK: How was that?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: It was really good.

FLOCK: You guys love baseball?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Yeah, it's great.

FLOCK: What about this -- there was all this talk about a strike and it didn't happen. I guess you are pretty happy about that, because you are on the field today?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Yeah, it would hurt all the fans and it would just hurt baseball. It's great they didn't do it.

FLOCK: How about you?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Good. That's good.

FLOCK: There you go. And again, if you look down there, Bruce, you are seeing Bill Mueller again.

You know, maybe I think the players have some sense that there is some repairing to do with these fans. And here is one of the more likable Cubs, who is about the business of that right now, signing balls and talking to folks, and, you know, this is time that perhaps folks don't have to take, but they do take.

And I was thinking about -- do we have enough cable to go down there and sort of listen in and interrupt him? Because -- there you go. We're just a fly on the wall here, and I'm going to get in Bill's ear as soon as he is done shaking hands here.

You know, we're just, Bill, just -- you are on live on CNN. I was just a fly on the wall today watching you. Do you have some sense that you've got some repairing to do with the fans? I mean, is there a sense out there that people were -- they were really in a white- knuckle ride this time?

BILL MUELLER, CHICAGO CUBS: I think just by playing these games and finishing the season is going to help heal some wounds, if anybody was hurt by this kind of speed bump that we had this season. But you know, it's a positive, it's over. And you know, let's rally around the people that are going to be making the playoffs in this World Series and let's have this become the best World Series in the history of the game. So let's just be positive about the whole thing and let's go play some baseball.

FLOCK: You've got some happy boys down on the end of that bench with your name on the balls. MUELLER: It's good, it's a great feeling to put a smile on somebody's face. You know, it's sometimes hard to do these days. And for these kids, it's great.

FLOCK: Bill, I'll you get back to work. Thank you. Appreciate your time. Bill Mueller, Chicago Cubs.

In the dugout, sitting on the bench, that's where I'd be probably anyway. There you go. Back to you.

PHILLIPS: I don't know, I've heard you're quite the slugger. Jeff Flock, live, the assignment of the day, in the dugout right there on Wrigley Field as a baseball game is about to begin.

Larry Smith, thank you so much for your insight.

SMITH: My pleasure.




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