Strike Averted

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Calling the deal "historic," baseball commissioner Bud Selig has announced an agreement on a labor contract that averted a strike threatened for later Friday.

"There is no strike," said Atlanta pitcher Tom Glavine, the National League player representative.

Selig said he's hoping the deal will "restore competitive balance." He pointed out this is the first time since 1972 that players and owners had reached an agreement in collective bargaining without a work stoppage.

At a news conference with Selig, Union head Don Fehr said, “All streaks come to an end, and this was one that was overdue to come to an end.” Fehr said he's extremely happy that a deal has been reached.

Fehr said the new agreement will give players and owners a chance to bring some stability to baseball that it hasn't had in a long time and return the game to the fans.

Owners gained their most significant concessions in 26 years with a luxury tax and new revenue-sharing plan, but they also agreed not to eliminate teams through the 2006 season. Owners had attempted to fold the Montreal Expos and Minnesota Twins after last season but were stopped by Minnesota courts.

Selig and Fehr attended a morning bargaining session that wrapped up the agreement, which averted the sport's ninth work stoppage since 1972.

No agreement had been signed, but the four-year deal was expected to be ratified by both sides within a week.

The deal was reached with little time to spare, about 3 1/2 hours before Friday's first game, between St. Louis and Chicago at Wrigley Field.

As the hours dwindled, lawyers had shuttled between the commissioner's office and union headquarters, crunching numbers and exchanging revised proposals.

Two lawyers from each side bargained until 2 a.m. before the sides broke for caucuses. Players gave owners a proposal during a 20-minute meeting that began at 4 a.m., and owners responded with a counteroffer about 6:30 a.m. The union returned with a response at 9:15 a.m.

The final meeting, which completed talks that began in January, lasted almost three hours. As soon as it ended, teams started heading to ballparks.