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Hatch threatens suit over Twins

Nov. 8, 2001 at 11:50 AM

ST. PAUL, Minn., Nov. 8 (UPI) -- Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch is threatening to sue Major League Baseball on antitrust violations if owners go ahead with plans to fold the Minnesota Twins.

Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., said he plans to introduce legislation to revoke baseball's antitrust exemption. Wellstone said he would ask President Bush, a former owner of the Texas Rangers, to support the measure.

Baseball owners met this week and voted to reduce the number of Major League teams by two to eliminate money-losing franchises. Though no franchises were immediately designated, speculation centered on the Twins, Montreal Expos and Florida Marlins.

Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura has said he has no intention of meeting with baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to try to dissuade him from axing the Twins. A spokesman for Ventura characterized the baseball owners as "the most disingenuous group of greedy old men that we've ever seen in this country."

Hatch said he thinks a lawsuit could stop the league contraction in light of recent court decisions narrowing the antitrust exemption so that it no longer applies to anti-competitive moves.

Hatch noted when the courts first granted the exemption, baseball was considered a sport, not a business.

"There are 250 million good reasons to say they are conducting themselves as a business," Hatch said Wednesday. "As a business, they ought to comply with the rules, just like everybody else.

Minnesota lawmakers have been balking for years at requests from Twins owner Carl Pohlad to fund a new stadium and efforts by Pohlad to sell the team repeatedly have failed.

Legislation is pending in the Minnesota Senate that would provide $300 million for an open-air stadium. The Twins would be required to put up half the cost, some coming from private sources. The rest would come from a $100 million state loan, $40 million from Metropolitan Council revenue bonds and $10 million in sales tax breaks on building materials.

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