Blue Jays Win Round 1

Round One in the case of the Toronto Blue Jays vs. the Boston Celtics is over, producing temporary smiles on the faces of the Blue Jays' attorneys.

Federal Judge Lee Gagliardi granted a 10-day extension of the impending restraining order that prevents the Celtics from negotiating with Danny Ainge, the third baseman-cum-shooting guard who is the object of a torrid custody battle between the world champion basketball team and a beleagured baseball team, still fighting to escape the cellar in its fifth year of existence. However, this all could be changed, providing a phone conversation between Judge Gagliardi and Federal Judge Rya Zobel, in whose Boston courtroom the litigants have a 3 p.m. confrontation scheduled this afternoon.

At issue here yesterday was the locale of the courtroom battle. The Blue Jays would like the case decided in New York, and toward that end have also sued the NBA itself. The Celtics would like the case decided in Boston, where, according to Toronto counsel Douglas Pike, "Mr. (Red) Auerbach evidently believes he would have the home court advantage."

"It's all up in the air," said Celtics' attorney Earl Cooley, one of seven legal minds combining to represent the Celtics and the NBA (The Blue Jays settled for a mere three barristers). At the moment, a resumption of the suit has been scheduled in Judge Gagliardi's courtroom for 9:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 18. But should he and Judge Zobel come up with another idea in the meantime, all scheduled court dates are subject to revision.

The Celtics contend that Ainge, the Brigham Young All-America basketball player, sought and received permission in June to extricate himself from his Toronto baseball contract, and should therefore be free to negotiate a basketball contract with them. The Blue Jays, despite their claim, say the Celtics are willfully interfering with Ainge, who continues to play with the Blue Jays.

Judge Gagliardi seemed more than willing to accept this case, even offering to clear a date on his calendar. The judge pointed out that the Celtics would be dealt "irreparable" harm should they be forced to wait out the conclusion of the baseball season before resuming negotiations with Ainge. Cooley, however, stated that the Celtics' rookies are due to report on Sept. 28, and futhermore, that in his view the case belonged in Boston and not in Judge Gaglardi's jurisdiction.

So there may or may not be a 3 p.m. court date today in Boston and may or may not be a 10-day restraining order in affect against the Celtics. We won't know until later this morning. About the only constant in this case is that Ainge still isn't hitting .200.

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