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Friday, 16 August, 2002, 20:09 GMT 21:09 UK
Bush speaks out against strike
A young fan protests against the 1994 baseball strike.
The 1994 strike killed off that year's World Series
President George W Bush has called on baseball to come to an agreement that will prevent a players' strike on 30 August.

The players will strike if a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached with the owners.

Talks between the players and owners broke down this week, but Bush has demanded they get back around the table.

"Baseball owners and baseball players must understand that if there is a work stoppage a lot of fans are going to be furious, and I'm one," Bush said during his working vacation at his Texas ranch.

"It is very important for these people to get together," said Bush, who before he entered politics was a part owner of the Texas Rangers.

"They can make every excuse in the book not to reach an accord. It is bad for them not to reach an accord. They need to keep working."

The union's executive board had been poised to set a strike date on Monday during a meeting in Chicago, but decided to negotiate a few more days before setting a date.

But the two sides made little progress, especially over the thorny issue of a luxury tax, and the players are now poised to carry out baseball's ninth work stoppage since 1972.

Reluctant to spend

The so-called "luxury tax" is at the heart of the dispute. Club owners want the payroll tax to stem the increase in player salaries, which now average nearly $2.4m.

The two sides are far apart on both the threshold at which an owner would have to pay the tax on team payroll and the amount of the tax.

The union believes the tax will make owners more reluctant to spend big money on player contracts.

If the players were to strike it could alienate baseball fans. They stayed away in droves after the 1994 stoppage that forced the cancellation of the World Series.

Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball's vice-president of labour relations and human resources, said through a spokesperson that management is "ready and willing to meet at any time."

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Todd Ant reports for BBC Sport
"Progress has been made on a number of issues"

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26 Jul 02 | US Sport
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