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STRIKING New York Yankees and Mets players won't get unemployment benefits, the state labor commissioner decided last week. But "innocent bystanders" who were laid off due to the strike -- grounds crews, ushers, bat boys, administrative staff, parking attendants and ticket takers -- will get jobless pay.

Commissioner John F. Hudacs said he based his decision on a section of state labor law that says professional athletes are not entitled to unemployment insurance benefits between seasons, if they have "reasonable assurance" that they will be re-employed in the following season.

Because the owners announced Sept. 14 that play would not be resumed for the 1994 season, the players are now between seasons. The optimistic commissioner further determined that there is no basis to conclude that the striking players do not have reasonable assurances that they will not play next year.

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