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THE UMPIRES STRIKE OUT; DISPUTE ENDS AS 22 LOSE THEIR JOBS.

Byline: Anthony L. Gargano Philidelphia Inquirer

Tears welled in the reddened eyes of umpire Mark Johnson on Wednesday night as he slowly walked from a sterile courtroom in Philadelphia, trying to digest a settlement with Major League Baseball that would keep his group of 22 umps from being back on the field this season.

The Major League Umpires Association and baseball, following 16 hours of negotiations the last two days under the mediation of U.S. District Judge J. Curtis Joyner, finally settled on an agreement in which the 22 umpires would receive full salary and benefits but essentially lose their jobs.

``It's astonishing,'' said umpire Richie Garcia, a 25-year veteran. ``Baseball has decided to pay us but not have us on the field. They don't need 345 years of experience for the last month of the season, the playoffs and the World Series. We're getting paid to stay home.''

The Umpires Association sought an injunction that would keep the 22 umpires at work beyond Wednesday's deadline, but Curtis pushed the two sides into working out a deal.

Union head Richie Phillips said he thought an agreement was reached Tuesday night to keep the 22 umpires on the field, plus salary and benefits, but learned that commissioner Bud Selig changed his mind upon arriving at James Byrne Courthouse on Wednesday morning. The two sides met for nine hours before meeting in Curtis' courtroom around 7:30 p.m. to announce the agreement.

``It's very difficult to understand why they would want to pay these people and not utilize them during a critical time of the year,'' Phillips said. ``In place, they will go with some minor-league umpires, some of whom have never been to spring training.

``They get their money, but that's not the way the umps are looking at it. These are people who like to work. They are professionals. It's absolutely shameful to waste their abilities.''

Under the terms of the deal, the union, in addition to withdrawing its request for the injunction, agreed to withdraw its unfair labor practices charge filed with the National Labor Relations Board, although it reserves the right to bring it back. Baseball, meanwhile, agreed to withdraw a grievance questioning the umpires' mass resignation as a violation of the no-strike clause in the collective bargaining agreement that expires Dec. 31.

``We smoked them,'' said Howard Ganz, an attorney for baseball.

The union chose to see it as living to fight another day.

``The ball game isn't over,'' Johnson said defiantly.

``The union lived today to fight tomorrow,'' said Susan Davis, an attorney for the union. ``There is a huge battle tomorrow.''

The next step will be arbitration for the 22 umpires, but that process could take months and will almost certainly last beyond the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement.

``As far as we're concerned, we can come back and play another day,'' declared umpire chief Jerry Crawford. ``But is it punitive? Absolutely.''

Said Davis: ``It's a message: `Don't mess with us. We can do without you.' ''

Johnson said this was another step of baseball trying to break the union, which splintered when Phillips' strategy of mass resignations blew up. On July 14, the union announced that 57 umps were resigning effective Sept. 2. But 27 umps, mostly in the American League, either failed to resign or rescinded their resignations. Baseball's stance is that it merely accepted the resignations of the remaining 22.

``No question they are trying to bust the union,'' Johnson said. ``A blind person can see that.''

Said Garcia: ``All we needed was a signature from Bud. It was their proposal. Then he changed his mind? All they are concerned with is union busting. They don't want to crack it, they want to bust it. If that wasn't clear before, it is now.''

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

PHOTO (1 -- color) Terry Tata, one of 22 umpires who lost their jobs, listens to `Take Me Out to the Ballgame' during the seventh-inning stretch at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday.

Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer

(2) Umpires working their last major-league game walk to the field for the final time at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday.

Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 2, 1999
Words:696
Previous Article:ANOTHER SAD ENDING FOR BASEBALL.
Next Article:MAVERICKS POUND JETHAWKS.


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