A strike by major league baseball players loomed Wednesday night when more than 150 of baseball’s top players pledged that they would not sign their 1969 contracts until a new benefit had been ratified by the Players Association. Among those who said they would hold out and who agreed to permit their names to be used were Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Al Kaline, Bob Gibson, Joe Torre, Frank Howard, Harmon Killebrew, Juan Marichal, Brooks Robinson, Jim Lonborg, Carl Yastrzemski, and Mel Stottlemyre. Marvin J. Miller, executive director of the Player’s Association, told the association’s executive board that some clubs were “pressuring players in an attempt to have them sign contracts.” He reaffirmed that the players would not sign their 1969 contracts until a new benefit plan had been ratified by the Association.
The major issue in the dispute between the players and the owners centers around the players’ demands for increased pension benefits, based on an increase in baseball’s new television contract from $36 million to just under $50 million. “There is ample time to settle this,” Miller said. “But we don’t know how far apart we are because they won’t disclose any share of radio and television revenue.” The players association present contract with club management expires March 31.