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SPBA drops two franchises; league will field four teams

Senior baseball is coming apart at the seams. Two teams have been dropped from the Senior Professional Baseball Association with the second season just a month away. Thus, the SPBA will field only four teams for its upcoming season, just half the number of last year's debut season.

The league had planned to have six teams this season, which is scheduled to begin the day after Thanksgiving, but league founder and president Jim Morley said Friday that only St. Petersburg, Fort Myers, Daytona Beach and Sun City, Ariz., will have teams for the 1990-91 campaign.

"This is disappointing because it didn't happen last June instead of 10 days before camps are supposed to open," Morley said. "The trouble all started with West Palm (Beach)."

West Palm Beach, which led the SPBA in attendance last season, had to drop out because of unstable ownership.

"Basically, we shut them down," Morley said.

The remaining owners then decided to drop San Bernardino, Calif., an expansion team, from the league.

The West Palm Beach Tropics were purchased in the off-season by New York theatrical producer Mitchell Maxwell, who owned the now-defunct Winter Haven franchise last season. But Morley said Maxwell did not meet the financial requirements set forth by the league. The team was lost when Maxwell was unable to sell the team back to original owners Don Sider and John Henry and no new owners could be found.

Morley said Sider claims he is kept too busy by his law practice and Henry is interested in becoming involved in the league next year, but not this season.

"(Maxwell) deserted us," Morley said. "He couldn't swing it financially and the league is not going to support teams. Every team has to be able to do it themselves. But, Maxwell deserted us."

The SPBA owners decided to drop San Bernardino to make schedule-making easier and strengthen competition.

"Some of the owners wanted San Bernardino to put up all of its money now and maybe they would've stayed in the league," Morley said. "But, they couldn't do that."

Morley said the league reserved the right to terminate any franchise whose franchise fee was not paid in full.

The players from the two defunct teams will be drafted by the remaining four SPBA teams.

In the aftermath of the restructure, Morley said Dick Williams, the former major-league manager who managed West Palm Beach last year, might take over as commissioner. The position was open since when Curt Flood left immediately following last season.

Eric Davis leaves Oakland

for Cincinnati hospital

CINCINNATI _ Injured Cincinnati Reds outfielder Eric Davis returned Friday from Oakland and checked into a hospital to continue treatment for a lacerated kidney he suffered in the final game of the World Series.

Davis is expected to remain in Christ Hospital for several days, Reds spokesman Jon Braude said.

Davis injured his right kidney while diving to make a catch in Game 4 of the World Series.

Earlier in the day, Braude said Davis had improved enough at the Merritt Peralta Medical Center in Oakland to resume eating solid food.

Around the majors

Free agency: Pirates pitcher Zane Smith and catcher Don Slaught were among 20 players filing for free-agency on Friday.

Catchers Bob Boone of Kansas City and Rick Dempsey of Los Angeles, and second basemen Willie Randolph of Oakland and Wally Backman of Pittsburgh were also filed.

Yankees: Bill Bergesch, who twice was the Yankees' chief baseball executive under George Steinbrenner, returned to the team as assistant general manager.

Bergesch was general manager of the Cincinnati Reds from November 1984 through the 1987 season but retired from baseball after he was replaced by Murray Cook.

Brewers: Left-hander Teddy Higuera, who filed for free-agency earlier this week, had a small bone chip removed from his right knee cap during an operation Friday at Sinai-Samaritan Medical Center in Milwaukee.

Indians: The team announced that it won't pick up the option of designated hitter-first baseman Ken Phelps, 36.