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In a USA TODAY BASEBALL WEEKLY/Gallup poll of 461 baseball fans, conducted January 16-18, 56% said they would be interested in games with replacements and 42% said they would be willing to pay full price to watch games with replacements. Also, 46% would follow replacement teams as closely as they would with the regulars, while 43% would be less interested. As for the labor dispute itself, 50% said they side with the owners and 28% favor the players. Last August, 39% favored the owners and 32% favored the players (USA TODAY, 1/26). FOCUS GROUP: The poll also surveyed 150 fans in a focus group who regularly attend games or watch them on TV: 72 said they would not attend/watch a game with replacements, 54 said they would, and 24 said they would but at a reduced level. Given the choice between watching a replacement game or an exhibition with striking players, 65 said they would watch the exhibition, 52 would watch the replacements, 31 would watch neither and two would watch both. If the strike is settled, 120 said they would return to watching/attending games the same as they did before, 16 would not return at all and 14 would return at a reduced level. When asked who they blame for the strike, 56 blame the players, 52 blame both sides and 42 blame the owners (USA TODAY, 1/26). THE CANADA PROBLEM: Paul Cavalluzzo, a Toronto-based lawyer working with the MLBPA, said yesterday that the union would fight the Expos should they seek an exemption from federal immigration law in order to field a replacement team with U.S. players. Cavalluzzo: "The immigration department has given us a clear message that they will maintain their position" (Tim Harper, TORONTO STAR, 1/26). The PALM BEACH POST reports the Expos are considering playing regular season games in West Palm Beach, although the Marlins hold territorial rights to that area (PALM BEACH POST, 1/24). MARLINS CUT PRICES IN HALF: The Marlins will charge half- price for tickets as long as replacement players are used, according to this morning's MIAMI HERALD. But unlike other MLB clubs, the team will allow season-ticket holders "to get back 100 percent of their money and still retain the right to their seast even if they choose to sit out the replacement games." Any unused tickets would have to be returned "on a homestand-to homestand basis" (Mike Phillips, MIAMI HERALD, 1/26). Marlins GM Dave Dombrowski said the team has signed 40 to 50 players for their "non-tradtional roster." Dombrowski: "There will be major league baseball. It will be the best baseball played by the best players available" (Gordon Edes, Ft. Lauderdale SUN-SENTINEL, 1/26). Also, the Yankees announced they would cut their ticket prices in half for regular season games with replacements. The price cuts will remain until 15 or more players from the 40-man roster are on the team. Season ticket holders will receive a 50% refund or credit (AP/N.Y. POST, 1/26). The A's announced some tickets will be cut by as much as 78% as they roll back prices to equal or less than their '81 levels (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 1/26). SPRING SLUMP: In Ft. Lauderdale, Eric Conrad reports that the reaction thus far from fans toward a spring training staffed by replacement players has been "apathy." Singel-game sales "are way off, with five teams reporting 80 percent drops." The early signs don't bode well for the Florida economy. Florida Sports Foundation Dir Larry Pendleton: "Certainly, it's a concern. This is big money for Florida." The best estimate is that '94 spring training generated $350M from 20 teams in FL and $135M from eight teams in AZ (Ft. Lauderdale SUN-SENTINEL, 1/26). NEWS & NOTES: Mangers and coaches from all 28 teams, many who draw benefits from the MLBPA, have been invited to an informational meeting in Dallas on February 6 to discuss the issue of coaching replacements (N.Y. TIMES, 1/26).
Businessman Achar Levy and CISL Commissioner Ron Weinstein officially announced the formation of the Mexico Toros yesterday, the second '95 expansion franchise awarded by the CISL. The Toros will play their home games at Palacio de los Deportes. With a capacity of 16,000, the arena has hosted NBA exhibition games the last two years. Mexico and the Seattle Seadogs are the two expansion teams for the '95 season. Monterrey La Raza, the league's other Mexican franchise, joined the league in its inaugural '93 season. Weinstein: "Placing a team in one of the world's largest markets is a huge step forward" (CISL).
The CFL may have suffered a "setback" yesterday when Larry O'Brien, President of Calian Technology, informed CFL Chair John Tory he was not interested in gaining control of the Ottawa Rough Riders. But today's OTTAWA CITIZEN reports sources confirming that Calian's minority shareholder, COMSAT, owners of the NBA's Nuggets, may be interested in the Rough Riders. Tory hopes to have the sale of the Riders completed by February 15 to any group interested in keeping the team in Ottawa. But the team's heavy debt, as well as the lack of any CFL expansion revenues for an "unspecified period" has kept prospective buyers away. O'Brien would not specify why he "gave up on the Riders," but he viewed the team as a good business opportunity. O'Brien: "I realized owning a CFL team is not a part-time position. ... I realized we should not go forward." Tory stated he was "buoyed by the interest" of a U.S. based party who would keep the team in Ottawa. Sources later confirmed the party as COMSAT (Don Campbell, OTTAWA CITIZEN, 1/26). NEWS & NOTES: At the CFL league meetings in Edmonton, the league voted to retain its East-West Division format. Representatives for both the Rough Riders, and Las Vegas Posse failed to show up -- "It didn't look good for a league trying to get its house in order" (Kent Spencer, Vancouver PROVINCE, 1/26). The latest home for the Posse is reported to be Jackson, MS, with reports that two Mobile, AL, businessmen are ready to buy the team and move them to Jackson (Gary Kingston, VANCOUVER SUN, 1/26). Winnipeg GM/Coach Cal Murphy urged a "go slow" approach: "Baltimore, Birmingham, and Shreveport are pretty solid and I think Memphis will be solid as well. But it's important we go into the right markets" (Reg Curren, CP/Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 1/26).