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Japan would say no to U.S.

The officials who run baseball in Japan made it clear this week that a U.S.-owned company would find it very difficult to do in this country what the Nintendo Co. wants to do in the United States: acquire a major-league team.

The reason, they say, is that Japanese fans regard baseball as a part of the national culture no less than some Americans do.

"I believe Japanese fans would not approve a foreign company owning a professional baseball team," Ichiro Yoshikuni, commissioner of baseball in Japan, said in an interview. "Japanese baseball is for Japanese, and Japanese fans would try to exclude the possibility of foreign-country involvement."

Rules adopted by Japan's baseball owners in 1971 limit foreign investment in Japanese teams to 49 percent at most. Yoshikuni said this rule could be waived by the owners, and he suggested there may even be loopholes. But he said in an interview Wednesday that such a step was unlikely.

Much of the commentary here about Nintendo's bid for the Seattle Mariners has been favorable, however. A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said he thought the Japanese bid should be seen in the context of philanthropic activities by Japanese companies operating in the United States.

Elsewhere

Arbitration winners: Seattle outfielder Jay Buhner and Baltimore pitcher Bob Milacki both won in arbitration. An arbitrator chose Buhner's request of $1,445,000 rather than Seattle's offer of $750,000, giving the outfielder a five-fold increase from his 1991 income of $247,500. In Baltimore's first hearing since 1980, an arbitrator awarded Milacki $1.18-million instead of the Orioles' offer of $700,000.

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