Friday, July 18, 2003

Chesley: Forget politics, Rose is Hit King

Local lawyer watches ESPN mock trial with disdain

Paul Daugherty
If the Pete Rose Matter is going to pester us in Cincinnati the rest of our days - and it is, friends, it is - it might as well be entertaining. The mock trial on ESPN Thursday night, addressing whether Rose should be admitted to the Hall of Fame, was as good as anything on TV this reality summer. It was a whole lot better than anything The Practice has been giving us lately.

I watched the proceeding hoping to find some new angle, some smoking gun we'd somehow missed after 14 years of did-he-or-didn't-he-and-does-it-really-matter? There was nothing. Nothing except this:

[IMAGE] Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz "prosecuted" Pete Rose Thursday in a mock trial for ESPN.
(Associated Press photo)
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I watched it with Stan Chesley, at his house. Chesley's a great lawyer. He has strong opinions. Plus, he has a really cool house.

"The issue," Chesley decided an hour into it, "is Rose's playing career, not his personal life."

Chesley watched with disdain as that bulldog-dweeb Alan Dershowitz badgered poor ol' sabermetrician Bill James. Chesley tossed his hands up as the cool practitioner of measured bombast, Johnnie Cochran, examined one of his defense witnesses, gambling expert Arnie Wexler.

"That's a mistake," Chesley said. "I have a problem with this. It's telling the jury (Rose) is a compulsive gambler. Whether he gambled or not had little effect on his playing career. Let's get to the credibility of his career. The gambling is irrelevant."

As for Dershowitz's attack on James, Chesley decided the prosecutor in this case "is all one gear. You can't tell what's important with him, and what's not. The jury sees that. He's a bulldog. That's what people like on TV. But it's not the real world. That's why (Dershowitz) is more of a professor than a trial attorney."

Chesley liked it when defense witness Bill "Spaceman" Lee spoke plainly and positively of Rose's playing career. "He was the best I ever saw," Lee said of The Hit King.

"That's my point," Chesley announced. "The problems were after his career as a player. He played 20 years without an infraction. We're talking about two separate careers."

Chesley agreed wholeheartedly when James said 14 years was sufficient punishment for what nobody has ever proved Rose had done: "Enough's enough," Chesley said.

Chesley thought Cochran should have presented a list of recent baseball miscreants, all the players who have been charged with crimes such as drug and/or spousal abuse, or sex crimes.

Cochran should have presented the outcomes of those cases. You might call it the Darryl Strawberry Defense.

"In 1919, there weren't drugs. Gambling was the stigma," Chesley said. "(Baseball's) priorities are something out of a dinosaur age. Next to murder, I don't know what else is a lifetime ban. They've convicted him without a jury of his peers. It's a jury of one," that being the commissioner.

When Dershowitz made the point that every game Rose didn't bet on the Reds, allegedly, he was, in effect, betting against them, Chesley decided "that's absurd. Completely speculative."

Watching this with Chesley, I wished he were at Harvard Law School Thursday, in place of Cochran.

He would have sent Dershowitz home crying to his mother.

Of course, then I wouldn't have had the pleasure of his expertise all to myself. This way was better. The beer was as cold as Chesley's opinions were hot. But Pete Rose is still banned from baseball.


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