CHICAGO -- The club owners are ready and the players are ready and now only the traditional enemy of bad weather can prevent the baseball season from finally getting started Saturday.
The national pastime's bleakest period since the 1919 Black Sox scandal ended Thursday afternoon with announcements from the owners in Chicago and the players in New York that the 13 -day strike had been settled.
The agreement resulted in bob-tailed season, cutting off the first 10 days of both major leagues schedules and resulting in that many payless days for players.
The shortened season and the payless days removed the final obstacle and settled the last of several issues which delayed settlement of the paralyzing walkout.
Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn gave the first word of the agreement when he emerged from a 4/2 -hour meeting with club owners in Chicago and said, "At long last, good news. The strike has ended."
Almost simultaneously. Marvin Miller, executive director of the Players Association, made a similar announcement in New York after long distance telephone conversations with the owners' committee.
Miller added that the owners should "take full responsibility" for delaying the season's start. Neither Miller nor Kuhn used the word "victory" in their statements, and it was difficult to see what either side gained.
Through today's schedule. 86 games have been wiped out; the major league clubs lost an estimated $5 million and the players are out about $1.25 million in salaries in a dispute that began over an increase in the players' pension fund and ended by settling the issue of how to trim the season and the salaries.
Included in the settlement, which Kuhn described as "tentative." was a pledge by owners to give $500,000 to the pension fund and $480,000 to the health care fund in addition to the $5.4 million contribution they already have been making each year.
Kuhn, after his announcement, was asked if he thought criticism of his "passive role" in the strike was justified.
"I have contributed to the solution as early as possible. My role was to work behind the scenes," he said. "I don't think the criticism of me was as unfair as it was uninformed."