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U.S. appeals court questions San Jose bid for Oakland A's

By Dan Levine

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court appeared skeptical on Tuesday about the city of San Jose, California's attempt to win a court order allowing the Oakland A's baseball team to move to Silicon Valley.

San Jose sued Major League Baseball and league Commissioner Bud Selig last year, seeking permission for the A's to relocate there. A lower court judge rejected the city's argument, ruling that baseball could withhold its approval for the A's to move under the league's longstanding antitrust exemption.

At a hearing on Tuesday before a three-judge panel in San Francisco, attorneys for the city argued that the antitrust exemption is narrow and should not apply to issues like the location of franchises. However, all three 9th Circuit judges directly questioned that reasoning.

"I don't see it," Judge Richard Clifton said.

The Oakland A's have struggled for years with weak ticket sales in the Oakland Coliseum, which the A's share with the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League.

San Jose, the biggest city in affluent Silicon Valley, has longed for an MLB franchise for years. The city has offered the A's land for a baseball park, while also pressing the league to have owners of the other teams vote to allow the A's to move.

A major obstacle to that plan has been the San Francisco Giants, which has attempted to prevent the A's move by arguing that the Giants hold territorial rights to San Jose, according to the lawsuit.

Tired of waiting for a vote, San Jose sued MLB, charging their "illegal and collusive actions thwarted plaintiffs' diligent efforts to procure a major league baseball team for Silicon Valley."

A ruling from the 9th Circuit could come at any time.

The case in the 9th Circuit is City of San Jose et al. vs. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball and Allan Huber "Bud" Selig, 14-15139.

(Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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