COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – With the threat of another work stoppage looming for major league baseball, 40 Hall of Famers drafted a letter requesting the sides to use a mediator at the talks.
"Both sides make persuasive arguments to support their positions, and thinking persons can understand the merits of those arguments," said the letter, which was released Monday. "Despite how each of us feels individually, however, we all agree that another work stoppage in baseball would be a terrible mistake."
Former Detroit Tigers star Al Kaline proposed the letter at dinner Sunday night after Ozzie Smith's induction.
"I love this game very much, as do all my fellow Hall of Fame members," Kaline said. "I did not think we should stand by idle and fail to express our views."
"Al's idea is a solid one," said Tom Seaver, who starred for the Mets, Reds and White Sox. "As a group, we felt it was important to put pen to paper and publicly share our opinion on this matter."
Pete Donatello of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Series has been in contact with the sides, management lawyer Rob Manfred said, but Donatello has not been active at the bargaining table.
Union head Donald Fehr and commissioner Bud Selig met in Cooperstown for two hours on Sunday, and both sides said they would be available for meetings every day this week, when Fehr hopes to conclude his tour of the 30 teams.
Players, fearful that owners will change work rules or lock them out after the World Series, are threatening to call the sport's ninth work stoppage since 1972.
Just the thought of that rankled 83-year-old Bob Feller, who said the dinner discussion became so intense the Hall of Famers didn't even eat dessert.
"We don't want a strike," the former Cleveland Indians ace righthander said Monday before the Hall of Fame game at Doubleday Field. "We want them to get their heads together, or at least put it in abeyance. Make them finish the season. They can iron it out between now and spring training. Just don't ruin what we've built up. It was tough enough after the last strike. We don't need another."
Feller suggested that if players strike, President Bush should issue an executive order sending the players back to play until the World Series is over. Bush is the former owner of the Texas Rangers.
"We just want to see baseball continue," former Red Sox star Bobby Doerr said. "And I think some of these young players are going to have to step up and say, 'Look, we love the game and don't want to see it hurt.' They're going to have to do something to keep from having a strike. Don't destroy something that's great with greed. That's the attitude of all the Hall of Famers."
If players don't see progress in the talks, their executive board is likely to set a strike date for August or September.
Owners, wanting to redirect money from the big-spending teams, have proposed increasing the amount of shared locally generated revenue from 20 percent to 50 percent.
Management also wants a 50 percent luxury tax on the portions of payrolls above $98 million to slow the rise in player salaries, which averaged $2.38 million on opening day this year.
Together, those proposals probably would lower the percentage of revenue going to players, who don't want to drain too much money from the high-revenue teams.
Chicago White Sox shortstop Royce Clayton thinks events of the past year should be enough impetus to reach a settlement.
"None of us want a strike with the things going on all over the world," Clayton said. "I don't think the players or ownership at this point want to have a work stoppage because of the atmosphere. On our side, if we don't get some type of agreement, we basically have no choice. We hope it doesn't come to that. Both sides are talking. It's positive."
Selig didn't make an immediate decision on the letter from the Hall of Famers.
"I share their deep concern for the future of the game," he said. "At this moment, I believe the best recourse to settle the economic and competitive balance issues that face the game is through collective bargaining. However, should negotiations reach a stalemate, the clubs and I will give serious consideration to the suggestion."