Baseball owners fire back in court

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Twins and major league baseball told a state court Monday that an injunction forcing the team to play next season strips the sport's right to govern its own affairs.

The brief was the latest filing in a court case that could prevent baseball's owners from eliminating two franchises before next season, with the Twins believed to be one of the two. Oral arguments before the state Court of Appeals are scheduled for Dec. 27.

"The Minnesota Twins and major league baseball's case rests on the bedrock of Minnesota law: A business owner, and not a landlord or the government is entitled to make the fundamental business decision of whether to continue to operate," attorneys for the Twins and MLB wrote.

Citing scores of lease cases decided by Minnesota courts, baseball's lawyers said Hennepin County Judge Harry S. Crump ignored precedent when he ordered the team to fulfill its lease by playing in the Metrodome in 2002. In his Nov. 16 ruling, Crump sided with the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which runs the Metrodome.

Also Monday, the Court of Appeals granted a request by season ticketholder Charles Spevacek to join the MSFC in its effort to enforce the lease.

Spevacek, a 45-year-old Minneapolis attorney, wanted to join the MSFC to get a fan's voice into the case. Attorney General Mike Hatch also is a participant.

In his filing, Spevacek argues that upholding the injunction is the only sure way to keep "the Twins from breaching their lease and thereby allowing season ticketholders to attend the games they have already paid to see."

Roger Magnuson, who is representing the Twins and baseball commissioner Bud Selig, said the development won't change his case.

In the new brief and in several previous court filings, Magnuson and his associates took issue with Crump's decision to base his ruling on sports law cases from other states and not from past action in Minnesota business cases.

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