Baseball commissioner Fay Vincent will go to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to hear House Speaker Thomas Foley make his case for the Japanese-backed bid to keep the Seattle Mariners.
The entire Washington state congressional delegation is expected at the meeting, according to a spokeswoman for Sen. Slade Gorton, the Washington Republican who solicited Nintendo Co. Ltd. officials to bid for the team, and who has spearheaded the push to approve the deal.
Vincent said he expects "a general discussion" of the team's fate.
It was Foley, however, who invited Vincent. Not only is the Democrat the senior member of the delegation and one of the most powerful figures in government, he is also not Slade Gorton.
As Washington attorney general years ago, Gorton first filed suit against Major League Baseball for moving one franchise, the Seattle Pilots, out of the state. He has vowed to support similar actions if the Mariners end up moving to St. Petersburg.
"My face is on a dartboard in Fay Vincent's office," Gorton said earlier this week. "I'm not a good lobbyist with owners."
Foley has been more low key in his support, although he too has made threatening noises about the statute that exempts Major League Baseball from antitrust law.
The Wednesday meeting is expected to be low-key, said Gorton's press secretary, Deborah Brunton. "It's not going to be a big bash-around kind of thing."
In other developments, Philadelphia Phillies managing partner Bill Giles said he might vote to accept the Japanese-led group.
Giles has been a staunch opponent of foreign investment in baseball, but said if no other potential owners come forward, he will probably vote to approve the sale.
In Seattle, a group of black business, labor and church leaders is urging Vincent to reject the proposed sale to the Japanese-led group because it claims Nintendo of America Inc. discriminates against minorities.
"The Nintendo of America company is not an equal opportunity employer and they have not been a good corporate community neighbor," said Oscar Eason, a spokesman for the Seattle CORE group.
Nintendo of America denied the allegation.
Also, King County Executive Tim Hill said Wednesday that baseball's slow response to the purchase offer has put such a "chill" on the team's upcoming season that the county will not be bound to the attendance clause in the team's lease.
"I think our community deserves better," Hill told the Seattle Times. "I will in some way communicate with Major League Baseball, telling them their action invalidates the attendance clause in 1992. How can they expect people to come to games when Jeff Smulyan doesn't want to be here?"
Vincent restates position
for Pinellas Co. legislators
TALLAHASSEE _ Don't get your hopes up, Tampa Bay.
That's the message commissioner Fay Vincent had for four Pinellas County legislators during a meeting Thursday in the Senate Office Building.
"I think the best answer for baseball and for Seattle in particular is that Seattle stays right there and prospers," said Vincent, who said the sport has a "very strong bias against relocation."
Vincent was in town as the guest of Wayne Huizenga, who was being honored for bringing the state its first major-league team _ the Florida Marlins _ at a reception given by the Florida Sports Foundation reception.
Huizenga and Marlins president Carl Barger spent the afternoon in meetings with legislative leaders, trying to convince them that they aren't trying to sabotage St. Petersburg's hunt for a big-league team.
Both men reiterated what they said during a news conference in St. Petersburg last week _ that they don't intend to stand in the way of Tampa Bay's effort to land a team or seek a $40-million "relocation fee."
Reps. Peter Rudy Wallace (D-St. Petersburg), Jeff Huenink (R-Clearwater), R.Z. "Sandy" Safley (R-Clearwater) and Sen. Curt Kiser (R-Palm Harbor) reminded Vincent of their hard-fought efforts to bring baseball to the state. Last year, the Legislature passed a tax break that would be worth $60-million over 30 years for Huizenga's outfitting of Joe Robbie Stadium for baseball.
"We wonder if our greater reward is ever going to be out there," Wallace said.
Vincent replied: "I'm very sympathetic. I would love to tell you everything you want to hear, but I have to tell you the truth."
Wallace acknowledged the word was discouraging.
"I don't believe we've heard the last word, but I believe the commissioner is making it clear our chances are not very good at this time," he said.
Huizenga lobbyist J.M. "Mac" Stipanovich, the former chief of staff for Gov. Bob Martinez, ushered the Blockbuster Video chairman around town. Stipanovich twice tried to keep reporters out of meetings before Kiser overruled him.
_ Information from staff writers Karl Vick, Marc Topkin, Bill Moss, Lucy Morgan and the Associated Press was used in this report.