Fans Cheer That Games Will Go On

By PAUL SINGER, Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - Jennifer Varriale was thrilled to learn Friday that she will get to see her beloved Red Sox continue their fight for an American League playoff position.

"I'm running to the field to get my tickets," said Varriale, 40, of Boston, who flew to Cleveland to watch Boston's weekend series at Jacobs Field against the Indians.

She said her friends weren't willing to travel with her to Cleveland because they didn't believe the strike would be averted.

"I'm ecstatic. The Red Sox are fighting for the wild card," she said.

Varriale and other fans statewide rejoiced at the news that a tentative agreement was reached on a labor contract just 3½ hours before the start of Friday's game between St. Louis and Chicago at Wrigley Field.

"If they struck right now, you would have lost a lot of fans," said Andy Fauver, 31, of Cleveland Heights.

Cincinnati Reds third baseman and players' representative Aaron Boone said he was "giddily happy" that there won't be a strike.

"I'm just really glad that we've put this thing behind us now. I hope it's for the betterment of the game, as well," he said in a telephone interview from his home.

Boone said it was his first time going through the ordeal of a near-strike. He wondered how many fans truly would have given up on baseball, even if there had been a strike.

"I don't know. You never know for sure what the backlash is going to be," he said.

Reds first baseman Sean Casey said people need to remember that they're fans of the game, too.

"We're really, really excited," he said. "Cincinnati's a baseball town .... We were definitely sensitive about how the fans would feel."

Reds pitcher Jose Rijo said he had bought a ticket for a 12:30 p.m. flight Friday to Miami where he has a home so he could leave town quickly if there was a strike.

"I bought it 14 days in advance. If I waited, it would have been $900," Rijo said. "I got it for $279." Rijo said he was happy to forfeit the money -- rather than his paycheck if a strike had begun.

At Mr. Bill's Tavern, a block from Jacobs Field in Cleveland, day manager Ann Mikol was busy taking down the black ribbons and angry posters from Wednesday night's anti-baseball party.

Pointing to a picture above the bar of the 1954 Indians, she said, "Those guys must be rolling in their graves. They had to work two jobs."

She said modern ballplayers "only care about money. They don't care about us."

But she said she's glad the strike was averted because the bar depends on the business from game night crowds. She also reluctantly admitted that she remains a loyal Indians fan.

The complex issues of collective bargaining on a strike deadline didn't matter much to Eli Kliekunas, 12. Standing in front of Jacobs Field with a baseball bat, he wore a T-shirt from a New York baseball tournament he played in this week. Heading home to Evanston, Ill., he had just wanted to get a look at the ballpark.

Kliekunas said he was happy to hear the strike had been called off.

"I'm really, really glad. I love watching my baseball team," he said.

Could that be the Indians? Not quite. He's a huge Chicago Cubs fan.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)