As negotiations to end the baseball strike sputtered along last week apparently on the road to nowhere, some interesting contradictions turned up in the rhetoric of Ray Grebey, the owners' chief negotiator. His credibility took a particularly severe beating during a National Labor Relations Board hearing in New York in which Grebey testified against an unfair labor practice charge that the Players Association has filed against the owners. The players, arguing that the strike is really a matter of money as far as the owners are concerned, have asked that the owners be required to open the teams' books to prove the clubs' economic hardship; the owners, hoping to avoid submitting their ledgers to scrutiny, have countered by contending that the strike issue—the owners' demand for compensation when losing free agents—is grounded in a desire to maintain competitive balance and isn't at all linked to finances. If that's the case, asked George Cohen, the players' Washington-based attorney, how come so many of Grebey's statements during the past three years have touched on little but the precarious financial status of the clubs?
In cross-examination, Cohen asked Grebey about a March 18, 1979 Boston Herald American article in which Grebey was quoted as saying, "I've found that most of the clubs I've talked to have financial troubles." Grebey at first denied making the statement and then said, "I don't recall."
Cohen: "You don't know whether it's accurate or not because you can't recall whether or not you said it?"
Grebey: "That's right."
Cohen then cited an Aug. 4, 1979 Los Angeles Times article in which Grebey said the baseball industry had become "a sick cow. We haven't produced any milk [profits] for six years. Sixteen clubs lost money last year." Grebey said he couldn't recall the "sick cow" quote and claimed he couldn't have said that 16 teams lost money because "I wouldn't have known that." Yet, an article about Grebey in last spring's issue of the Ken-yon College (Grebey's alma mater) Alumni Bulletin suggests that he did. Wrote History Professor Reed Browning, using information provided by Grebey, "Major league baseball does not generate enough revenue to sustain the game as we now know it.... No less than eight major league franchises suffered after-tax losses of more than $2 million in 1978."
At the NLRB hearing, Grebey was asked if, after meeting with club officials, he sought to learn how they wanted to keep salaries down.
Grebey: "No. I started formulating the collective bargaining policy."
Cohen: "Your bargaining policy had nothing to do with escalating salaries?"
Grebey: "It had something to do with it."
After struggling with his memory over another newspaper quote, Grebey said, "Even if I said...I don't think I'd make a statement like that."