Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Japan owners approve merger

Decision could prompt first-ever strike by players
Associated Press

Sept. 8, 2004

TOKYO -- Setting the stage for the first players' strike in the history of Japanese baseball, the owners of Japan's 12 professional teams voted Wednesday to approve the merger between the Orix BlueWave and Kintetsu Buffaloes.

In a meeting that lasted almost three hours, the owners approved the merger, a decision that will leave the Pacific League with five teams next season. The owners also said they will maintain the two-league format that has been in place since 1950.
"We hope to hold meetings with the players up until the last minute," Yomiuri Giants owner Hakuo Takihana said.

On Monday, the Japanese players' association said that if the merger between the Pacific League teams was approved, they would refuse to play all weekend games between now and the end of September. They have said three conditions, including a one-year freeze on the proposed merger, must be met by Friday to avoid a strike.

It is widely believed the merger, which could cost 100 players and team personnel their jobs, could lead to other mergers in the Pacific League and the formation of a single 10-team league.

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