Pete Rose On Trial

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Thursday, July 17
Rose jury: Let him in

By Greg Garber

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- It didn't have the glib punch of his O.J. Simpson speeches -- there was no "The man can hit, you must acquit" -- but defense attorney Johnnie Cochran's message of "Enough is enough" resonated with a 12-person jury at Harvard Law School on Thursday night.

Even without the sing-song catch phrase, Johnnie Cochran was persuasive in his argument that Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame.
"You have the power," Cochran had told the jury in his closing remarks. "Now it's time to bring Pete Rose home -- home to the Hall of Fame."

And so they did.

If those jurors in ESPN's "Pete Rose On Trial" ran Major League Baseball, the sport's all-time leader in hits would be eligible for enshrinement in Baseball's Hall of Fame. In an 8-4 vote, the jurors rejected prosecutor Alan Dershowitz's contention that Rose's gambling should keep him barred from Cooperstown.

The mock trial, filmed in Harvard's Austin Hall, featured 10 marquee witnesses, including home run king Hank Aaron, Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer and seven-time All-Star Dave Parker, who played under Rose from 1984-87.

It was a curiously compelling combination of statistics and legal theater, as they debated whether Rose should be admitted to the Hall of Fame nearly 14 years after he signed an agreement with baseball commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti declaring himself permanently ineligible in accordance with Major League Rule 21.

"I think we should carry the day," Cochran had said earlier. "I'm cautiously optimistic."

Cochran credited the testimony of former Boston Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee, whose iconoclastic behavior earned him the nickname "Spaceman."

"I never would have guessed it," said Cochran, who said he personally believed Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. "Bill Lee was the star witness. The guy cut through everything. I mean, he didn't even like the guy. But, basically he was saying, let's not give him the death penalty.

"Banish him forever? I don't think so."

Cochran's main thrust was that the 225-page Dowd Report cited by Major League Baseball, and used by the prosecutors, was biased and inaccurate.

"I'm familiar with documents like that," Cochran said. "You can always rely on witnesses who have an axe to grind. ... I don't trust that kind of evidence."

Further, Cochran stressed, Rose has never admitted that he bet on baseball. Cochran claimed that Rose signed his agreement with Giamatti thinking he would be admitted to the Hall of Fame in a few years. When Giamatti died, Cochran asserted, his successor Fay Vincent changed the rules so that Rose's eligibility would not be reconsidered.

"In many respects, the Dowd Report is a red herring," Cochran said. "If you look at the documents, baseball made no finding. That's what the agreement says. If they had left it the way it was, he would have been on the ballot in a few years."

Said jury foreman Eddie Andelman: "... 11 of 12 people said if he'd accept the blame and apologize, they'd put him in the Hall of Fame."
Jury foreman Eddie Andelman, a popular Boston radio host, guided the spirited discussion behind closed doors.

In a sometimes charged 90-minute debate, the jurors discussed the relative merits of the case. Despite its billing as a "mock" trial, the jury conversation often exhibited the raw and awkward tone of a reality show.

His nickname was "Charlie Hustle," one argued, "I don't think he ever didn't try to win a game."

Another said, "Without rules, there is anarchy."

Later, they all acknowledged that Lee was the most persuasive witness. The majority of the jurors adapted his simplistic point of view. In fact, in a revealing poll of the jury after the verdict, Dershowitz (perhaps looking forward to an appellate challenge?) learned that 11 of 12 jurors believed that Rose had bet on baseball.

"Bet or no bet," said Jason Grenier of Northbridge, Mass., "Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame."

According to Andelman, two jurors entered deliberations believing Rose should be barred but eventually switched their votes. Two others, Andelman said, thought Rose should be eligible and turned against him. Andelman, for the record, sided with Rose.

"The feeling was, he's a great, great player," Andelman said after the verdict. "But 11 of 12 people said if he'd accept the blame and apologize, they'd put him in the Hall of Fame."

Even before the verdict was read, Dershowitz had acknowledged the difficulty of his mission to keep Rose out of Cooperstown.

"I always knew it was a tremendously uphill battle," said Dershowitz, who described himself as a serious baseball fan.

When he wasn't biting his nails, Alan Dershowitz apparently had his fingers on the pulse of ESPN's SportsNation. An overwhelming majority says Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Indeed, an SportsNation Poll revealed that 79 percent of the more than 300,000 respondents supported Rose's inclusion in the Hall of Fame.

Dershowitz's case, however, was built not on emotion but, as he said in his opening argument, the rules of baseball. He saw his role in prosecuting Rose was to educate the general public in the nuances of the Dowd Report, authored in May 1989 by former federal prosecutor John Dowd. According to the report, Rose bet on Major League Baseball games, including games he managed for the Cincinnati Reds.

"Baseball is a game of rules," Dershowitz told the jury, "and there is one rule that exists and appears in every clubhouse and every ballpark, all the way down to the minor leagues. And that is -- Thou shall not bet on baseball, especially not a game in which you have a duty. Anyone who violates that rule should be ruled permanently ineligible."

Dershowitz, a professor at Harvard Law School, maintained that Rose should be barred from the Hall of Fame until he admits to betting on games and apologizes.

"The ball is in his court," Dershowitz said in his opening statement. "He has to do the right thing."

To the jury, Dershowitz added, "Do the right thing, not the easy thing."

Without Peter Edward Rose, Cochran argued, the Baseball Hall of Fame will remain the "Hall of Shame."

In the end, the jury did the popular thing.

Rose admitted in a 1989 deposition that he had illegally bet on NFL games, as well as college and professional basketball. He denied betting on baseball.

On Aug. 23, 1990, Rose signed an agreement with Giamatti that rendered him permanently ineligible in accordance with Major League Rule 21. According to Baseball Hall of Fame Rule 3 (E), "any player on baseball's ineligible list shall not be an eligible candidate."

In the absence of Dowd himself, Dershowitz presented Sports Illustrated investigative reporter Lester Munson as a witness familiar with the report. Munson described betting slips that bear, according to experts, Rose's fingerprints and handwriting. He also related a story in the report that Rose had an associate in the stands relay out-of-town scores to him when the Cincinnati scoreboard was broken.

The verdict suggested that the jury cared less about Rose's alleged violation of the letter of the law than his 14-years-and-counting wait for an invitation to the Hall of Fame.

Jim Palmer, a three-time American League Cy Young Award winner and a Hall of Fame inductee, gave his deposition via videotape. Palmer said his interpretation of Rule 21-D was that if anyone involved in a Major League Baseball game bet on it, "that's when you will be banned permanently from baseball."

Prodded by Dershowitz, Palmer listed a number of ways a manager could adversely influence the outcome of a game, such as purposefully leaving a pitcher in a game too long. Palmer also described the value of inside information, such as player injuries, to bettors.

Dr. Jon Grant, an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University and a compulsive gambling expert, told Dershowitz that between 3 and 4 percent of adults can be classified as compulsive gamblers -- a sickness that is similar to alcohol and drug addiction. Under prodding from Cochran, Grant agreed that sports leagues have failed to address compulsive gambling as a sickness.

Steve Garvey, a 10-time All-Star and holder of the National League record of 1,027 consecutive games played, said he had talked with Rose numerous times since he was banned from baseball, as recently as three to four months ago.

"I like Pete Rose," Garvey said. "Nobody played the game harder than Pete Rose. Peter Rose had and has a problem, and that's gambling. If he looked in the camera and said, 'I made a mistake. I ask for forgiveness ...,' he'd be in the Hall of Fame today."

Like Garvey, Boston Globe columnist and author Dan Shaughnessy said that Rose's on-field accomplishments were not diminished by his unsavory off-field habits.

"In my view," Shaughnessy said, "he loved betting more than he loved baseball."

Cochran's first witness was Aaron, who cited Rose's many baseball accomplishments before concluding that Rose "deserves to have his plaque be put into Cooperstown. He's been punished enough."

Ultimately, no one was punished in the court room more than Bill James, the baseball statistician and Boston Red Sox consultant. Dershowitz later said he attacked James because he didn't believe in his cynicism concerning the Dowd Report.

James pointed out, however, that the NFL suspended Alex Karras and Paul Hornung for betting on league games, but subsequently reinstated them. The difference, of course, is that they admitted their guilt and later apologized.

"He's the kind of guy you hate, but if you were putting together a team, you'd draft him," Bill Lee said of Pete Rose.
In the end, Lee was the showstopper. He drew three separate rounds of sustained applause from the Austin Hall audience.

Lee admitted he disliked Rose, saying at one point that "He's a pain in the ass," but said he was the greatest two-strike hitter he ever saw.

Should he be in the Hall of Fame?

"Most definitely," Lee says. "He's got the numbers. He's the kind of guy you hate, but if you were putting together a team, you'd draft him."

Parker was Cochran's last witness.

At any time, Cochran asks, did you ever see Pete Rose bet on baseball, as a player or manager?

"No," Parker said.

Did he ever see him throw a game?

"No," Parker repeated.

Dershowitz said he understood, from an emotional standpoint, why fans want to see Rose in the Hall of Fame. "But you can't change the rules," he argued.

And then, affecting a cocky, Cochran-style stance, he paused.

"If he bet on the game," Dershowitz said, wagging a finger, "there's no Hall of Fame."

A nice little slogan, but this time the shoe (or was it the glove?) didn't fit.

Greg Garber is a senior writer for

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