Vincent Says He'd Welcome Discussions -- Angry Japanese Civil- Rights Leaders Want To Meet With Commissioner

Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent says he'll be happy to meet with Japanese civil-rights leaders infuriated by baseball's opposition to the purchase of the Seattle Mariners by a group financed by Nintendo of Japan.

Vincent said he's yet to be contacted by members of the Japanese American Citizens League, which requested a meeting this week.

"I haven't heard from them but, generally speaking, I am willing to meet with anyone," Vincent said.

The JACL, representing 25,000 members in 113 chapters, wants an explanation for Vincent's stated opposition to the purchase offer from the Baseball Club of Seattle, which has pledged $125 million to buy and operate the team. Sixty percent of that money belongs to Hiroshi Yamauchi, president of Nintendo Ltd. of Kyoto, Japan.

"My suspicion is it (baseball's opposition) is based on race," said Dennis Hayashi, JACL national director. "It's highly suspicious. It seems like every time they talk about it, their explanations get more convoluted."

Vincent, pressed again yesterday for reasons for baseball's opposition to the Japanese-financed deal, groped for a clear explanation.

"We believe there is a trust element," he said. "Baseball is something of a national trust."

Vincent added, "We don't believe baseball should lightly view control of baseball franchises who may not understand, or who may not be sensitive about what is unique about baseball."

Vincent also revealed for the first time that the policy, which a week ago was an unwritten rule and Tuesday became a 2-month-old written policy, now has become a moratorium that will be reviewed after one year.

That doesn't cut it, Hayashi said.

"They have no policy," he said. "They're fumbling for one as they go along."

Like most people attempting to untangle the logic of baseball's opposition to the deal, Hayashi is frustrated by baseball's finger-pointing defense. Vincent continues to say his position reflects that of baseball's 26 owners, not necessarily his view.

"This is ownership driven," Vincent repeated yesterday. "My view on ownership issues is that the owners have every right to decide the characteristics of baseball owners."

No owner has commented publicly on the proposal.

Vincent also said he'd be willing to meet further with members of Washington's congressional delegation. House Speaker Tom Foley, D-Spokane, has discussed inviting Vincent to Washington, D.C., for a luncheon.

"I would expect I would talk with them," Vincent said. "I would look forward to that."

No date has been set.