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National League lists 6 citiesfor expansion

NEW YORK -- The National League Tuesday named six finalists for its two expansion baseball teams in 1993.

The six cities are: Buffalo, N.Y.; Denver; Miami; Orlando, Fla.; St. Petersburg-Tampa, Fla., Washington. The two winning bids will be announced before Sept. 30.

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The long list of expansion candidates had 10 cities with 16 prospective owners. The four cities dropped from consideration were: Nashville, Tenn., Charlotte, N.C., Sacramento, Calif., and Phoenix.

'All prospective ownership groups on the short list are the most qualified in terms of financial stability, significant community identification and long-term committment to a baseball club and their community,' Dan Danforth, chairman of the NL Expansion Committee, said in a statement. 'The cities on the list are the best in terms of market size, government commitment to support baseball and stadium facilities in place or planned.

'We look forward to the next step in the expansion process, visits to the sites and final recommendations.'

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The National League currently has 12 teams, two less than the AL. The last expansion teams to enter the major leagues were Seattle and Toronto in 1977.

The new franchises will pay $95 million each to join the NL. They will not be able to share in the league's television revenues for at least two seasons.

The expansion timetable calls for minor-league play to begin in 1992 with the player allocation draft in November 1992.

Of the six finalists, only Washington, a longtime member of the AL before the franchise moved to Minnesota, previously had a major-league team.

Florida, with three candidates, is a big favorite to land one team. Buffalo, which has broken minor-league attendance records, now seems uncertain it can afford a team.

The finalists for the two teams, with prospective ownership groups: Buffalo -- Buffalo Baseball LP (the Rich family), Denver -- Colorado Baseball Partnership (Stephen Ehrhart, John Antonucci, Michael Monus, Michael Nicklous, Cary Taraji), Miami -- South Florida Big League Baseball Inc. (H. Wayne Huizenga), Orlando -- Orlando Sunrays Pro Baseball Team (Richard DeVos), St. Petersburg-Tampa -- Sunshine State Baseball Associates, Ltd. (Sidney Kohl, Allen Kohl, Stephen Porter, S. Joel Schur), Washington -- Metropolitan Washington Baseball (John Akridge 3d).

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Only hours before the list was announced, Buffalo squelched its chances when local lawmakers said they are reconsidering plans to spend $2.5 million on expanding the city's downtown baseball stadium because of recent uncertainties by the potential owners of an expansion franchise.

City councilmen said they may be forced to hold off on selling a $2.5 million bond for blueprints to expand Pilot Field because Robert Rich Jr., current owner of the Class AAA Buffalo Bisons and the principal owner in a group attempting to land the expansion team, has raised doubts about the financial feasibility of a big league club.

Rich said he was 'thrilled' after the Expansion Committee's announcement, promising 'that when major league baseball comes to Buffalo in 1993, it will be afforable for everybody involved.'

'Buffalo deserves this more than any of the four cities that aren't on the list... and more than any of the five cities that we're on the list with. 'We're committed to bring major league baseball to western New York. We're committed to bringing affordable family fun to the fans of this area,' Rich said.

Bob Pincus, who heads the Washington group and and is president of Sovran Bank, was equally pleased with the announcement.

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'It's the holiday season, we're very thrilled. It's a gift that's been delivered to the metropolitan Washington area,' said Pincus. 'It's just the beginning. We're going to bring baseball to Washington.

'I think the chances are excellent. I think the state of Florida will get one team. Then if you compare us to Denver and Buffalo ... the size of the metropolitan areas, we far exceed them demographically.'

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